Last week marked the second chapter of our discussion of asset protection trusts for doctors, with a look some basic issues of jurisdiction, that is, what geographic location’s set of laws control the trust. For those who want a potentially higher degree of security with a longer track record, offshore tools like international asset protection trusts (IAPTs) are often attractive.
Although painted in a negative light in recent popular lore because of issues with large numbers of tax evaders (many of who are American doctors) the defensive value of the IAPT remains intact. The simple mistake made by most of the people you read about having trouble with offshore accounts can be reduced to simply failing to report the accounts as the law requires. You do have a well-established right to have offshore bank accounts and trusts and the event of moving money to a foreign bank account owned by a trust or held personally as we covered in our previous article on offshore finance is typically not taxable in and of itself.
A large number of successful American doctors set up this kind of defensive planning in the first place because they lack full confidence in the often inconsistent and subjective nature of the American court system and are unwilling to remain exposed to any claim or lawsuit that may come along, regardless of its validity and amount. One of the questions that I’ve asked clients pondering the domestic vs. foreign asset protection trust question is this: If you feel you that ensuring your life’s efforts against the above mentioned exposures in the U.S. court system is a good idea, does it make sense to rely on that very same system’s laws and subjective judgment in the planning you implement against it? While opinions and tactics vary widely among planners not all of those strong opinions are backed by actual long-term experience; make sure the answers you are getting actually are.
There are many international jurisdictions to choose from when creating an IAPT ranging from familiar Caribbean islands to Belize, Jersey, The Isle of Mann and the Cook Islands, one of my personal favorites. Some jurisdictions (especially many of the romanticized Caribbean ones) are now too close and connected to the United States to provide the full value of an offshore trust structure and others may be too remote, politically unstable or under-developed to provide many westerners comfort. This author’s personal experience with several thousand of these structures has been to use a remote but well-established protective jurisdiction staffed by top international banks and trust companies that controls assets housed in first-world, European-state-owned and insured banks. These provide superior solvency risk and political stability. Banks such as these provide the many layers of protection and part of the system of checks and balances so important when moving your assets.
Once assets are moved, the “investment advisor” to the trust can allocate the trust’s assets to nearly any imaginable conventional investment and a few you can’t participate in directly as an individual U.S. citizen. In addition to the basic legitimate business purposes of wealth preservation and estate planning, the IAPT is also gaining popularity with those who have concerns about having their entire investment portfolio here in the United States. Currency stability as well as social political and economic variables have prompted more Americans than ever before to investigate these options over the last five years.
The costs and legal formalities, as well as the history and legal protection afforded, vary widely between jurisdictions, so it’s important to work with an experienced planner that has full range of required support resources like banks, trust companies, protectors, and investment advisors. As always, timing is key, so looking at these tools after an exposure has occurred dramatically reduces their effectiveness and legality. In this limited forum we can’t possibly cover every detail, so get personalized professional legal help when examining this important asset protection strategy or any other.