What are Asset Protection Trusts?

If you want to protect your assets from creditors or to alleviate the effects of taxes or divorce, a domestic asset-protection trust can help you feel secure. Trusts have a variety of uses and protecting your assets is just one of them. When you set up an asset-protection trust, you will be protected from creditors and others who might claim you owe them money.

Types of Domestic Asset-Protection Trusts

In 2013, Utah established a new asset-protection trust statute. This provides a great degree of protection for those who create and fund an irrevocable trust. Irrevocable trusts are far more effective than revocable trusts and they are recommended for this reason.

What are Asset Protection Trusts

Revocable trusts, while effective for their intended purposes of general estate planning, do not protect against creditors. This is because the person who created and funded said trust is able to amend it. This allows creditors to compel distributions from the trust if they obtain a judgment against the grantor.

Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, provide greater protection. This is because an irrevocable trust is created by someone other than the beneficiary of the trust. However, even irrevocable trusts aren’t completely foolproof.

Who Can Benefit from A Domestic Asset-Protection Trust?

Contrary to popular belief, domestic asset-protection trusts are not merely for those with a high net-worth. While these persons can obviously benefit from a trust like this, many people in high-liability professions have started funding and creating them as well. Some of the most common high-liability professions are:

  • Doctors: Doctors and physicians are often the targets of malpractice lawsuits.
  • Contractors: If something goes wrong on the job site, the contractor is likely to be held liable.
  • Accountants: Accountants and other financial advisors, like stockbrokers, are charged with the responsibility of protecting their client’s finances. If something goes wrong, the blame could be put on them.

While these professions come with high-liabilities, there are many other professions and situations that can benefit from a domestic asset-protection trust. If you feel you can benefit from one, then odds are you are most likely correct.

What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will? An Introduction to Utah Intestacy Law

Dying intestate, or without a will, is very common. If you die without a will, your property will go through probate and is then distributed according to Utah’s intestacy laws.
Intestacy laws govern intestate property. They go into effect unless there is a valid will to testify to the deceased’s wishes or an established estate plan. In intestate inheritance, a spouse is first in line, then children, then their children, and so on. When there are no heirs in the direct bloodline, the heirs are the parents, then siblings, then nieces and nephews, and so on.

Here are some common events that may happen if you die intestate:

Your immediate next of kin, whoever they are, will likely inherit your property first: lock, stock, and barrel. If you die intestate, everything goes to your next of kin. Your next of kin are the people who have the closest relation to you. If you’re married, then that’s your spouse. If you’re not married, your closest blood relations or equivalent, will inherit your property.

That son- or daughter-in-law you don’t like will get your property before that niece or nephew you do like. Marital property owned by your children is governed by the laws of the states they live in, not you. If they live in a communal property state, an inheritance is separate property so long as it is not commingled. While the laws are different in every state, property acquired by gift or inheritance during marriage by either spouse is separate property, but it is very easy to commingle and then become part of the community and subject to a 50/50 division.

Your heirs could be hit with inheritance taxes (that could have been avoided). The relatives who inherit from you may be subject to a large inheritance tax (both on the federal and state level), depending on the size of the estate and the state where the assets in question are held. While this won’t wipe out their inheritance completely, proper estate planning could have made this a non-issue. For example, a Salt Lake City estate lawyer could have helped you create a trust that would have minimized your loved ones’ exposure to taxes.

A little bit of money up for grabs has a very cooling effect on interfamilial relationships. In a perfect world, family members would all get along, never be jealous, and always do right by each other. This isn’t a perfect world. Intestacy laws don’t take into account the relationships the deceased had with anyone or what the deceased orally promised to someone. Even if widowed Uncle Bob told you he wanted you to have his ’65 Thunderbird, without a will, the car is going to his son…who doesn’t even have a driver’s license.

If you wish to dispute an intestacy inheritance, contact a Salt Lake City estate lawyer for assistance. They can counsel you on your rights and what course of action you can take, if any, to prove a valid claim to the estate.

Free Initial Consultation with Asset Protection Lawyers

When its time to start protecting yourself and your assets, call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Online Relationship Ends in Divorce

When you begin dating it’s a whole new world with several prospects on the horizon. Online dating has made it easier to find love in an already difficult dating scene. Many websites will match you to people with similar interests in your area. You can get to know each other and begin an intimate relationship without ever meeting in person. Many relationships that begin online end in marriage. Things are blissful for some time and then here comes the dreaded divorce talk and threats of finding the best divorce lawyer. When the dreaded prospect of divorce arises contact a Salt Lake City divorce attorney to discuss options. There are several reasons why a relationship that begins online has a higher chance of ending in divorce.

Online Relationship Ends in Divorce


When the relationship is based solely online and through a screen, the chemistry feels electric. Then it comes time to meet face to face and the chemistry just doesn’t translate. You can’t stand each other and simply just don’t get along. There is absolutely no attraction but yet you’re stuck here with nowhere else to go. Even though many dating sites will match you with someone in your area some couples have to travel different states or countries to be with each other. In theory, you think you are both meant to be. You have similar backgrounds and morals. It’s a perfect match well that’s what the dating site says anyways.

Chemistry can also fade over time as with any relationship. It can be great without any issues, you even make it to the altar without any major relationship problems. You had talked and fantasized about this from the moment you started dating and your time has arrived; wedded bliss. The expectations are high and aren’t being met. One partner feels let down and disappointed leading to resentment. The other partner begins to feel as if they have let you down. You both come to the conclusion that divorce may be the only way out.


When couples live in different areas and aren’t close together this puts a major strain on the relationship. They have to move figuratively and literally to resolve the issue. One partner will need to uproot their entire life to make things work. This is a big step that requires many changes and a lot of compromises. One spouse will need to give up their home, job, friends, and family for love. The first step is finding a new job which isn’t always easy so in the meantime, you have to depend on your partner for financial assistance or eat up any savings you have. This starts to build resentment if the communication isn’t there yet. When things don’t end up working out and it gets too difficult, arguments begin leading towards a downward spiral ending in separation and divorce. Couples should sit down and come up with a realistic plan of action and have contingency options if things go awry.


Child Custody Cases: There are few bonds more precious than a parent and their child. In many instances, fathers take a very active role as their child’s development. But in far too many cases, the rights of fathers are constantly under attack. For example, Utah’s adoption laws call for the consent of one parent. In the vast majority of those cases, fathers often find themselves in a powerless situation. The bias against fathers in Utah involving adoption is extremely blatant. State laws allow mothers to place their child up for adoption without consent of the father. In fact, the father does not have sign the papers. The state’s adoption law bias is so notorious, many mothers from other states travel to Utah just place their child for adoption.


Divorce can often get messy.  Child custody is one of the most complex issues in Utah family law. In addition to complying with legal obligations, fathers must also wrestle with emotional issues when it comes to the custody of their children. There are many questions that need to be answered. Who has access to the children when they are with the other parent? How much time will the child get to spend with each parent? The sad truth is many parents do not properly follow the child custody arrangements made by the court. The amount of custodial interference cases in has skyrocketed in recent years. In far too many cases, the rights of fathers are being ignored.  Here is how fathers can protect themselves.

  • Present the divorce decree signed by the judge to prove your legal parental obligations
  • Never file a petition with family court based on revenge or vengeance.
  • Make sure to document important evidence, including emails, phone conversations and text messages between you and your former spouse.

A recent study conducted by a respect law firm indicates, there is a clear bias against father–particularly in cases involving custodial interference.

  • 64% of custodial interference cases against mothers are thrown out by courts
  • Custodial interference cases have tripled in the last decade.
  • The average time between filing for custodial interference cases is 232 days.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer

When you need a divorce attorney, call Ascent Law for your Free Consultation (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Dealing with Divorce

Dealing with Divorce

If divorce has become necessary, you may be wondering how your life will change and the possible financial and emotional impact of breaking up with your spouse. Because I am a divorce lawyer, I see families struggle every day and even though it is easy to focus on yourself, you should also remember the potential effects of divorce on children in Salt Lake City, Utah, and across the U.S. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you might be able to help your children work through your divorce and minimize the emotional toll.


The Workforce Management Office has outlined different pointers that you may want to keep in mind if you are going to split up with your marital partner and are worried about your kids. For example, you should try to help them understand how the divorce will change their lives, but you should do your best to remind them that they will continue to be loved. If they have questions, you should try to provide them with solid answers and, depending on the details surrounding your divorce, ease some of their worries. If you can, you should try to inform them of some of the changes they can expect, which may include living with only one parent or moving to a new city, among others.

By turning to a mediator, children may benefit on a number of levels. For starters, if their parents have less stress and a more amicable divorce, this can make it easier for children to spend time with each of their parents and they may be exposed to less arguing, thereby lessening the emotional burdens a child has when his or her parents split up.


While it’s typically in the best interest of the child for custody arrangements to be settled as quickly and harmoniously as possible, sometimes the process is long and contentious. Some Utah child custody cases can last for years, and place great stress on the children and parents involved. That’s why it’s so important that such family law issues are handled with compassion to minimize anxiety and achieve the appropriate outcome. One incredibly complicated and controversial child custody case has come to an end.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court just recently rescinded orders specifying that a four-year-old girl should remain in the custody of her biological father until further notice. In so doing, the court essentially enforced another custody ruling, which granted custody rights to the child’s adoptive parents. This final decision was four years in the making, and even involved the country’s highest court.

The young girl is now in the custody of her adoptive parents since her biological father was ordered to hand her over. The case, which has made national and international headlines, involves a child that was placed into adoption at birth. She lived with her adoptive parents until the age of two, when custody rights were granted to her biological father because of his Native American heritage. The lengthy and complex custody dispute was heard by the U. S. Supreme Court, and the child’s adoptive parents were once again granted custody. However, the disagreement continued when the biological father asked that Oklahoma make a ruling.

Now that the dispute is settled, the adoptive parents have the right to live with the child as they please. It’s not stated whether or not the little girl’s biological father will have visitation rights or whether the adoptive family will raise her according to Cherokee tradition.

Free Consultation with a Utah Divorce Lawyer

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Child Support Modifications for Job Loss

Families in Utah often have an arrangement where one parent is required to pay child support to the other parent. This is typically the case when one parent has significantly higher income than the other or if one parent is the primary caregiver. I’ve seen this many times as a family law attorney. However, there are times when the parent making payments struggles to do so, perhaps due to an illness or job loss. One state is working to break the cycle by assisting certain parents with finding a job, in order to help them provide for their children rather than send them to prison for unpaid child support.

Child Support Modifications for Job Loss

The program was started recently by a judge who serves in domestic court cases. It seeks to offer education and career training for those who might otherwise be arrested for their debt. For now, it will be temporary and only an option for certain parents until data is available on the program’s effectiveness. The judge who implemented it said she realized that some parents who struggle to make their payments do so due to circumstances that are often beyond their control. She felt that jailing the parents overloaded the court system, left kids with inadequate care and failed to solve the problem overall.
Specific companies that have partnered with the program will offer jobs and education to the parents in need. One woman recounted her own story, saying she had applied for numerous positions at various companies but failed to get an interview. She is hopeful that this program will help her provide for her daughter who currently lives with her ex-husband.

This program is not available in all areas, but it serves as a reminder that, if a Utah parent is having difficulty making child support payments, he or she may be able to request a modification to his or her support agreement. The family court will review the specific case and make a recommendation based on the personal circumstances of everyone involved. Doing so could allow a parent to better care for the child they love so much.


Divorce is a long and strenuous process and signing that finalized divorce paper can feel like a giant weight has been lifted. For some, however, that signature does not mark the end of the uphill battle. Some couples have much more complicated situations that include spousal support, child custody, and child support. After a divorce is finalized these can be modified over and over again. If you are stuck in a modification struggle you will need the help of a Salt Lake City divorce modification attorney to help you obtain your desired outcome.


You can modify child custody and visitation schedules until the child’s eighteenth birthday and if both parents can agree to it then this is a fairly simple process. The court will typically grant the modification in circumstances where both parents agree unless the modification put the child’s safety at risk. The best case scenario would be the parents agree on a modification and the court follows suit. On the other hand, things can get messy if one parent does not agree to the modification. This requires the parent requesting the modification to present evidence that a material change has occurred such as a parent moving away for a job. The next step would be for the court to determine if the modification would benefit the child and how much of the visitation or custody agreement needs to adjust.


Child support modifications require specific circumstances and can be complex cases to change. Child support is intended to ensure the child has all of their material needs met like food, clothing and school supplies. Reducing child support impacts the child greatly since the money they depend on each month for their needs is being called into question. Therefore, the court has guidelines for child support modifications. Some of these include a three-year gap since the judgment was entered, financial circumstances are changing permanently and there has been a 10 percent change in how much it will impact the payments. Salt Lake City courts will also be modified if there has been a 15 percent change in income or child expenses.


Spousal support is simpler because it merely needs a material and substantial change in financial circumstances. The only time this rule of thumb does not apply is if the change was foreseeable like retirement. Spousal support can be a temporary payment for a certain amount of years if outlined in the original arrangement.

Free Consultation with Child Support Lawyer

If you need child support changed because of job loss, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Keep Social Media Out of Divorce

Even if many Salt Lake City, Utah, residents are reluctant to admit it, social media websites like Instagram and Facebook play an important role in our everyday lives. As a divorce lawyer, I’ve seen this impact divorce cases. In fact, many people rely on social media to keep in touch with family members and loved ones all around the world. That is why it can seem all too natural to share life events online, however significant or mundane they may be. When it comes to important processes like divorce mediation, however, social media should not play a role. It’s impossible to police social media.

Keep Social Media Out of Divorce

Unfortunately, many aspects of one’s personal life can be brought up during a divorce dispute. In addition to documents like credit card statements and job applications, the contents of a social media page can also be presented. And when it comes to things like pictures and status updates, it’s almost impossible to guarantee that they are not taken out of context.


While there are many aspects of the divorce process that can be fairly complex in the state of Utah and beyond, determining which party should maintain rights to certain assets after divorce is often difficult and emotional for each side. Property division involves identifying which, if any assets were obtained jointly during the course of the marriage and whether or not any property should be subject to division. The future of one major oil company was placed in question after it came to light that the majority shareholder might lose a portion of his stake in his divorce.

Harold Hamm is reportedly worth more than $14 billion and owns the majority stake in the oil company he founded years ago. Hamm and his estranged wife have also reportedly been at various stages of the divorce process for years, and the case is not expected to go to trial until this summer. And while it may still be some time before the divorce is finalized, one key component of the case is settled.

An Oklahoma judge recently determined that a substantial number of shares in the oil company would not be divided in the divorce because they were purchased by Hamm before he got married. Because it was not known if the 122 million shares would be split, other company investors were concerned over Hamm’s majority stake and what the potential loss would mean to the future of the organization.

Now that Hamm will reportedly maintain primary ownership of the oil company, he expects that it will continue to grow and thrive as it has been in recent years. It’s estimated that Hamm owns more than 126 million shares of the corporation. It is not stated if any shares were subject to division.


As the state of Utah addresses an aging family law system, accounting for the needs of contemporary families and changes in social standards, state policies come under review. For instance, state laws addressing issues like child custody arrangements can be amended to better reflect current trends. And while Utah legislators often focus their energy on matters specific to the state, they still sometimes look to measures passed in other states as models for their own proposals. That is why a bill that was recently proposed in another state may be of interest to Utah state lawmakers and family law experts.

When discussing the proposed bill that recently passed the Illinois House Judiciary Committee recently, one clinical psychiatrist commented on the adversarial nature of current family law practices. According to the psychiatrist, the family legal system functions in a way that encourages conflict between divorcing parties and is counterproductive to developing objective child custody and visitation agreements. It’s for that reason that the psychiatrist supports a bill that was introduced by a Republican representative in the state.

The proposed piece of legislation would give family law judges the ability to develop a shared parenting plan in the event that parents do not establish their own agreement within 90 days. If the judge determined that the noncustodial parent was fit, he or she would automatically be granted 35 percent parenting time with the child.

Because state legislators are also considering a similar bill introduced by a Democrat representative, it is not known whether or not the Republican bill will pass. And while the measure has gained considerable support, critics argue that a specific formula for determining parenting time should not be included in the legislation.

Free Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer

When you need legal help with child custody, support, asset division or other divorce or family law matters, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Limit Your Exposure in Business Lawsuits

In the law, you learn things in school, but you also learn things over time – you know, hard knocks and further research. As Business Lawyers, we discovered long ago that there are things that you can do right now to prevent future problems.

These are the things every business owner (big or small) should know about protecting personal assets from lawsuits, creditors and business liability. Being self-employed and owning your own business comes with inherent risk. Even big businesses land in financial trouble and sometimes fail. So, here we discuss how to limit your personal exposure to a business lawsuit. We also discuss how a corporation can protect you from a business lawsuit. A sole proprietorship or general partnership do not offer protection.

Limit Your Exposure in Business Lawsuits

Most of the time small business owners keep busy with work, life, family. They generally have just enough time to keep it all together. Many never fully understanding the potential liability they expose their assets to in a business day. Moreover, many are unaware of how asset protection plans can limit that risk.

Planning for Entrepreneurs

Small business owners need to be especially prudent about protecting themselves against liability both from the business and daily life in today’s litigious society. Plus, it is important to protect your business assets from a personal or business lawsuit. Small business owners with less than $1 million of business revenue and a net worth of $500,000 can create simple asset protection plans quickly and easily. They can accomplish this and from anywhere between $2,500 and $20,000.

On the other hand, according to workforce.com, the average cost of an employment lawsuit is $75,000 to $125,000; escalating from $175,000 to $250,000 for a jury trial. Those with asset protection strategies in place have effectively removed the pot of gold from the end of the rainbow. Therefore, notifying your opponent of such, you increase the likelihood of hearing “case dismissed” or reaching a quick settlement. Thus, the sooner you start asset protection planning the stronger it is and less expensive it will be to defend yourself in the event of a lawsuit.

How to Limit Personal Exposure to Business Lawsuits

Here are some things you can to do limit your liability.

Incorporate Your Business

Most business owners are aware of the limited liability they can enjoy when they incorporate or form an LLC. However to maximize asset protection a few points they should scrutinize. Form your business, fund it, operate it and maintain it with asset protection in mind. This is your first layer in limiting personal exposure to your business.

Inventory Your assets

Regularly inventory your debts and assets, including second homes, investments, retirement accounts, corporate stock, etc. These are important assets that a creditor can take away during litigation.

Know Your Exemptions

You may have protected some of your assets from creditors in holdings such as your primary residence (in some states), retirement account, pension or life insurance. When state or federal laws provide sufficient protection from creditors your asset protection plan should focus on fraud claims, divorce and tort liability (negligence).

Do Not Personally Guarantee

Do not personally guarantee business contracts and loans – By signing a personal guarantee you essentially disregard the limited liability of your corporate entity. In the event of failure to pay or perform on a contract, you are on the hook. Find a financial institution or vendor who does not require a personal guarantee in order to work with you. If you must guarantee a business agreement then apply limitations for a specific time. Alternatively, you can pre-determine an asset in the contract that they can use as collateral.

Sign as a Corporate Executive 

Sign contracts, John Smith, President of ABC Corp. not John Smith. Even if you have a corporation, if you execute a contract personally, the law will likely consider it a personal guarantee. When executing contracts always ensure you are acting on behalf of the business. You can also limit contract liability with verbiage in the agreement that caps or disallows specific damages.

Realize Insurance is Limited

Yes, this is a line of defense for liability, business, property, automotive, etc. The problem is that the coverage is limited. That is, someone can always sue you for more. Plus, insurance companies write a broad range of exceptions in their policies so that they can squirm out of paying when you need it the most. For example, most policies do not cover sexual harassment or fraud, whether you are falsely accused or not.

Free Consultation with an Asset Protection Lawyer

When you need legal help, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Bankrupt Medical Bills

I think that if you’re looking at filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills, you should always speak with a bankruptcy attorney. A Harvard University revealed about 60% of the 1.5 million people who filed bankruptcy annually did so for unexpected medical bills. Surprisingly, 75% of those bankruptcies were filed by people who had medical insurance before the illness or injury. This demonstrates that insurance does not protect personal assets from the collection rights of medical businesses. So, how do you protect assets from medical collections?

Bankrupt Medical Bills

Unexpected and unpredictable medical events pose a high level of risk. This could stem from an unexpected illness, car crash or other injury. Your child could suffer an injury. This has caused many concerned individuals to create legal asset protection strategies. Today’s medical costs are so high it seems that only an insurance company can afford them. There are many treatments and procedures that insurance doesn’t cover. The resultant bills can leave the patient’s personal assets at risk to satisfy the collections agents.

Bankruptcy on Medical Bills

Carrying insurance is not enough. There is an increasing concern about how one’s financial life would survive unexpected medical expenses. Even a short stay in a hospital could amount to tens of thousands of dollars of care costs. A major illness or injury could last weeks or months and has the potential to wipe out a lifetime of savings and home equity.

What can you do to protect yourself from unexpected medical bills? What happens if you incur medical expenses you cannot afford and insurance won’t cover?

A lawsuit happens. The hospital or its collection office/agency hits you with a judgment. They file liens against the home. They can generally levy your bank accounts. In most states they can garnish your wages on your employment income. Patients in this situation often have to file bankruptcy. Doing so will requires the individual or family to forfeit all of their unprotected wealth. This means that bank accounts, some or all real estate equity and other valuable non-exempt assets are gone. The courts utilize them to satisfy creditors.

Insurance Companies Deny Claims

The tragic truth is, even those of us with excellent insurance coverage are still at risk. What happens when an insurance provider denies a claim? A recent study by the California Nurses Association showed that California’s biggest insurers denied over 25% of all claims submitted in the first three quarters of 2010. PacifiCare denied over 43%, Cigna over 39% and Anthem Blue Cross, more than 27% of claims denied. Hospitals will pursue the balance of the care costs an insurance company denies.

Even if the medical care costs exceeds hundreds of thousands of dollars, your insurer could still deny the claim. Then what? You could have the forethought to pre-negotiate an agreement in advance. Otherwise your medical provider will want you to guarantee the full amount of care costs incurred; those that your insurer does not reimburse. Simply put, you are financially responsible for anything your insurance company doesn’t pay for. What this does is force you to sue your insurance company. This is a long and expensive process against a deep-pocketed opponent that not many individuals can afford to pursue. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. In some cases, it’s simply less expensive for the insurer to deny a claim and litigate. Some insurers take that approach as part of the company business model.

Free Consultation with a Bankruptcy Lawyer

When you need bankruptcy help for medical bills, or need to file a bankruptcy case, call Ascent Law now at (801) 676-5506. Attorneys in our office have filed over a thousand cases. We can help you now. Come in or call in for your free consultation.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Irrevocable vs Revocable Trusts

Irrevocable vs Revocable Trusts

Because we are Utah lawyers, we are often asked questions. We love answering questions. Today we were asked about trusts. Here is some information that should be useful to you. An irrevocable trust is an agreement allowing property to be held by one party for the benefit of another, stipulating that that it cannot be readily revoked, altered, or amended. It is commonly used for asset protection and estate planning. A trust is a legal tool that consists of three parties:

  1. Settlorwho has the trust created.
  2. Trusteewho manages the trust.
  3. One or more Beneficiarieswho receive the benefits of the trust.

You will also hear a Settlor also referred to as a Grantor or Trustor. A trust can also have multiple Settlors and/or Trustees. Then next question we answer is about revocable vs. irrevocable trusts, and how they compare.

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts

A revocable trust, commonly a revocable living trust, is an estate planning tool that a settlor can change at any time. So, if your needs change you can make amendments freely without the interaction of a third-party.

So, why doesn’t everybody set up a trust that is revocable as opposed to an irrevocable trust? There are several reasons.

  1. A revocable living trust is part of your own estate for asset protection purposes.  As such, it offers no asset protectionfrom creditors or those who seek to sue you.
  2. It also offers no segregation of assets in order to qualify for supportsuch as Medicaid or disability assistance.
  3. Plus, upon your death, such a trust is also yours for state and federal estate tax

Why Irrevocable?

The primary reason people use irrevocable trusts to protect assets from lawsuits. Legal theory commonly allows a creditor to step into the shoes of the debtor. It allows the creditor do what he or she could do. For example, let’s say the settlor of a trust could freely change the beneficiary. The one who sued the settlor could step into his or her shoes and change the beneficiary to himself. If the trust allowed the settlor to independently spend trust assets on himself, the creditor could do the same.

Plus, some people use irrevocable trusts to make sure that others carry out their wishes when they are no longer around. This is common in second marriages where a spouse wants to make sure that children from the first marriage get at least some of the assets.

This article will primarily focus on the use of an irrevocable trust to protect assets from lawsuits, judgments and creditors. It will also touch on its role as an estate planning tool.

I Can’t Ever Change It?

It’s not quite like that, as there are often ways to make changes. It depends on how the trust is drafted. But if the purpose is asset protection, the changes often require the approval of a third-party, such as the trustee. Most trusts that protect assets are discretionary trusts. For example, if you decide to cut out a beneficiary or add a new one, simply ask the trustee. The trustee, at his, her or it’s (in the case of a corporate trustee) discretion can do so.

The trustee has discretion to decide whether or not the act would be in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the trust. They will see if it complies with the settlor’s intent, the overall purpose of the trust, and if doing so would or would not put trust assets in harm’s way.

To say it another way, if you could change it directly, the judge could force you to change the beneficiary to your legal enemies. So, by making it irrevocable, you are more likely to get what you want: the use of the trust assets. By requiring third-party intervention, it ties the judge’s hands from directly forcing you to make the changes against your will.

Changing Trustees

Don’t like the trustee? That’s okay. Simply fire him or her and hire another. You can change the trustee to anyone but yourself, a family member up or down the family trustee, an agent of yours, or a controlled employee. This is because courts consider these people your alter ego.

There are many types of irrevocable trust. Not all are for asset protection. There are trust to hold life insurance, for charitable purposes, to reduce the tax bite, and to care for those with special needs.

Conveyances & Transfers

Many people ask us about fraudulent conveyance / transfer and if they can get into trouble for moving assets into such a structure. The answer is, that fraudulent transfer is merely a civil matter, not a criminal one. It is not a crime. You cannot go to jail for it. There are not fines. The most that can happen is a judge can put assets back to where they were in the first place.

Allowances for the Unforeseen

Properly drafted trusts allow for wide range of future possibilities. For example, there are circumstances that would warrant a change of beneficiaries or trustees. Perhaps Mom and Dad unexpectedly have another child. One child exhibits evidence of long-term substance abuse. On child tragically perishes. The trustee retires. A well-drafted trust addresses all of these circumstances.

How Can It Be Irrevocable? 

How can it be irrevocable if I really can change it? Notice the operative word, “I.” Irrevocable doesn’t necessarily mean nobody on the planet can change it. It doesn’t mean that you cannot suggest a change to someone else. It just means that certain people cannot, independently, without outside cooperation, change it. This is a good thing. Remember, if you could just change the beneficiary at a whim, the judge could force your whim to be your enemy at law.

Direct Control Can Hurt You

We all like control. But if you have complete power to change the trust, it could be used against you in a courtroom. That’s because a judge could force you to use that control and that would likely not be a good thing for you. He can force you to change the beneficiary to the person who sued you. That will allow your opponent to take all of the money held therein that is needed to satisfy their judgment. So, when you are lose a lawsuit, a revocable trust puts the judge, not you, in charge.

Why Choose an Irrevocable Trust?

A trust can be used to protect assets, but every trust is not equal to the next trust agreement, not by a long shot. A properly drafted irrevocable trust can protect assets from creditors. It can shield you from unnamed family members seeking addition as beneficiaries at the grantor’s death, or anyone else trying to take the grantor’s assets.

Free Initial Consultation with an Asset Protection Lawyer

When you need help with irrevocable or revocable trusts, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Which Asset Protection Tool is Best?

Which Asset Protection Tool is Best

The first thing a lawyer will do when considering a case against you on a contingent fee basis is to do an asset search. It’s the same thing an experienced litigant will do before handing over a hefty retainer. When he or she is attempting to discover the amount of money you possess, you need to remember that real estate deed copies and taxes paid on your property are available for public consumption. Anyone can access them. As an asset protection lawyer, one of the best tools we have is to remove your name from the public records database of real estate. Average income in your neighborhood – easily accessible. The car you hold title to in your name – easy to find. Where you work – a simple Internet search will usually do. How much you make and how much you’ve saved – this organization has repeatedly seen private investigators find out without much effort. The secret for how to protect your assets? Secure your wealth and prevent your asset information from going public by using the proper legal tools.

Land Trusts

With a land trust, you can hold title to your property in the name of the trust/trustee instead of your own name. This keeps your name from being associated with it in the public records. So, if someone unknown to you attempts to find out where you live, what property you own or what your real estate holdings are worth, finding that information becomes more difficult. This cloaking is provided by the land trust, which keeps your real property holdings private.

If you plan to establish land trusts for your personal residence or other real estate holdings, the good news is that they are available for use in all states, through common law, whether or not their statutes specifically address them. Remember, not every possible human act has been codified into law. Just like there are no known laws specifically authorizing the wearing of red shoes, what you will eat tonight, and who dates your daughter, not all state statutes specifically address the use of land trusts. They don’t need to. Unless there are laws to the contrary (of which there are none known in the United States), their use is permitted. This organization has established land trusts for use in all U.S. States.

Whereas the land trust is not an asset protection device, it is a privacy tool. Consider making the beneficiary of each land trust a separate limited liability company. For your personal residence, it usually makes most sense to name yourself as the beneficiary from a tax perspective. That way you can take advantage of the interest deduction, the allowable tax-free profits upon the sale of the home, etc.

A mortgage lender cannot forbid the transfer of a home into a land trust if the property is between one and four dwelling units and the owner remains as beneficiary of the trust (Garn St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982). It would be wise to inform the insurance company that your properties are in land trusts.

Title Holding Trusts

Title holding trusts are similar to land trust in that they provide privacy of ownership of non-real estate assets. A title holding trust can be used to own vehicles privately. Since automobile ownership is a matter of public record, why own them in your name? If you own a newer 500 series Mercedes-Benz, a 600 series BMW, high-end Tesla or the like, a potential plaintiff or contingent fee attorney can easily find out. That could get his or her juices flowing that you are a deep-pocket.

Filing a lawsuit or taking a case on a contingent fee basis is a business decision. When they look for what you have and find no real estate and no cars, they’ll think twice about proceeding with case. Like land trusts, title holding trusts are not asset protection tools, they are privacy tools. This organization has seen hundreds of people keep cars that they would have otherwise lost by merely disguising their ownership in title holding trusts.

Living Trusts

For estate planning, there are few tools as good as the living trust. When you form a living trust, the trustee can be you or someone else. A living trust can act as the serving tray upon which your assets are served to your heirs up on your death. Your estate can avoid probate fees – the legal process of transferring assets from the deceased to the living. There are no such fees because the title to the property doesn’t need to change. It’s still in the trust. Your heirs simply become the new beneficiaries.

Instead of hearing, “First I’ll need a $10,000 retainer,” from an estate lawyer your heirs simply take the trust and a death certificate down to the bank and the money is theirs. Alternatively, you may have the trust drafted such that a trustee or trust company steps in and provides specified amounts at specified ages, regular support payments, payments for education, living expenses, etc. You can require your heirs to accomplish specified goals, such as certain levels of educational attainment in order to receive specified amounts. Your trust, your choice. This gives you control of how your assets are distributed long after your death.

Just like there are different motor vehicles for different uses, there are different trusts for different uses. There are powerful asset protection trusts that are available. However, a living trust is not an asset protection tool. It is an estate planning tool. Its main purpose is to give your heirs access to your assets when your days are done.

Corporations for Asset Protection

Corporations are useful for legally protecting yourself from business lawsuits. A corporation is considered a separate “person.” When that person is sued, the lawsuit is directed at it, not you. Thus, the corporation can act as a wall between you and your business to help protect your personal assets.

When you operate your business as a privately held corporation, then you can generally sell stock in your company free from public disclosure, protecting both the price paid and the name of the buyer. Just make sure you comply with the state and federal securities statutes. If it becomes a publicly traded company, more disclosures are required.

Most states require corporations to release the names of officers and directors. If you wish, you may elect to have nominee officers and directors who show up in “name only,” but you, as the voting shareholder, have the ultimate control. The names of stockholders typically stay out of the public records.

Corporations also allow for creative maneuvering of assets. For instance, if you are in the process of purchasing expensive equipment or vehicles that are already owned by a corporation, you can have the owner leave the property in the corporation, or place it in a new one, and then transfer the stock in the corporation to you. Make sure to get advice from a CPA on how a transaction of this nature is best handled from a tax perspective.

LLCs and Limited Partnerships (LPs)

For real estate assets, both limited liability companies (LLCs) and Limited Partnerships (LPs) work well for protection. LLC owners do not generally have liability for business debts or actions of employees. The benefit of an LLC is that the one(s) in charge, the managers, are shielded from business liability. With a limited partnership, on the other hand, the general partner (GP) is vulnerable. So, LLCs are now used almost exclusively instead of LPs.

Furthermore, as long as your LLC has been properly established, if you get sued in your personal life, there are legal provisions that can protect you from losing your membership in your LLC. They may get a judgment against you. But there are laws preventing them from taking your LLC or anything inside of it.

LLCs are also great tools to own passive investments. Unlike a corporation, which doesn’t usually work well from a tax perspective for owning a stock brokerage account, a LLCs default tax flow-through status allows you to take deductions and report gains as if you held the investments in your own name. However, unlike holding them in your own name the LLC offers favorable asset protection advantages which are discussed below,

It is usually a fast process to form an LLC in most states. Have it set up professionally because there is quite a bit to it, including drafting the articles, operating agreement, membership certificates, etc. You want to make sure that when you need it to protect you that it was set up right. If you missed something, you can believe that your opponent’s attorney will make a major issue of it in court and drive a truck right through it. So don’t scrimp. Have it set up by someone who does it every workday.

LP and LLC Background

Before the invention of LLCs, limited partnership were one of the most common tools used to own real estate. With either structure, your property can protected when you are sued personally. Why can someone not take your LP or LLC if you are sued? There is a reasoning behind this; mostly, fairness. To make sure the actions of one partner or member do not affect the actions of others, judgment creditors generally cannot take these entities, nor can they seize the property inside.

An LP used for asset protection purposes is typically structured as a family limited partnership, or FLP. An FLP is simply a limited partnership where the only partners are members of a family. (The same is true for members of a family LLC or FLLC.) Both an FLP and LP are set up with written agreements between at least two individuals. There are at least two types of partners, a general partner and a limited partner.

The general partner runs the business and is liable for debts of and lawsuits against the partnership. That is why a corporation or LLC is usually placed in that position.

The limited partner is a passive investor and does perform actions within the business. The limited partner is also not liable when the LP is sued. If a limited partner does start to manage the LP, however, he will be legally considered to be a general partner with all of the associated liabilities. So, if a limited partner wants to perform services for the LP, he or she will want to perform those services as an agent of the corporation or LLC that serves as the general partner. Contracts will be signed, for example, “Pat Smith, Manager of XYZ LLC, as general partner of ABC, LP.”

LLC & LP Owners

Whereas a one-person LLC is quite common, an LP requires at least two partners. A one-human LP, however, is possible where one partner is a natural person and the other is a legal person, such as a corporation or LLC. A man named John can hold, for example, a 95% interest as a limited partner, and the LLC he owns can hold a 5% interest as a general partner.

Profit sharing can occur between or among partners depending on their percentage of ownership. If the written limited partnership agreement allows it, the general partner can receive income over and above his, her or its proportional ownership interest.

Free Initial Consultation with an Asset Protection Lawyer

When you are ready to protect your assets, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Trade Secret Litigation

Trade Secret Litigation

A trade secret is information that derives actual or potential value from not being known to the public and that is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy. A trade secret can consist of formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, or processes. In fact, protection of trade secrets can cover everything from microchip design to religious practices. Some of the most famous examples of trade secrets include the formula for Coca-Cola and the algorithms behind Google’s search engine. However, information does not need to be famous for it to warrant trade secret protection. In fact, many valuable trade secrets are valuable precisely because the public does not know about them.

Every state allows an owner of a trade secret to seek legal relief when that trade secret has been disclosed or used without authorization. Moreover, nearly every state has adopted a version of the Uniform Trade Secret Act, which was originally published by the Uniform Law Commission in 1979. This act sets forth specific requirements and procedures that are unique to trade secret claims. As Utah attorneys, we’ve handled several of these cases.

Because trade secret cases are a particularized area of intellectual property law, attorneys who deal with trade secrets must be familiar with the procedural and substantive nuances of misappropriation claims. As an example, it is crucial to any misappropriation claim that the plaintiff, at an initial stage of the lawsuit, identifies the information claimed to have been misappropriated with reasonable particularity.


Prenuptial And Postnuptial Agreement Lawyer

Why Get A Prenup?

The idea of a prenuptial agreement rubs quite a few people the wrong way. “Why get married if you anticipate a potential failure?” they may ask. They may fear that a prenup will become a self-fulfilling prophecy of marital breakdown. Judgments such as these tend to overlook several realities that engaged people should face head-on as they prepare to marry:

  • About half the marriages in our society end in divorce. Entertaining the notion of a possible divorce someday can be realistic and even prudent.
  • Many people preparing to marry have financial and family complications to take into consideration: inherited assets, business interests, wide income differentials between spouses or children from previous marriages.
  • Divorce litigation dealing with division of assets can be very costly.
  • A prenuptial agreement can serve as a sort of “insurance policy” against potentially nasty legal maneuvers in the event of a marital breakup.

Who Needs A Prenup?

At our law firm, we often see clients who are considering prenuptial agreements falling into one of two categories:

  • Young people who have special financial circumstances such as gifting by older generations
  • Older people who have worked their whole lives and have substantial assets

Rest assured that if we help you craft a prenuptial agreement, we will do so fully hoping and expecting that you will never have to use it. On the other hand, we can predict from experience that you and your fiancé or fiancée will find peace of mind in putting down in writing the expectations that you both bring into the marriage with regard to each other’s assets.

Postnuptial agreements, on the other hand, have several common applications; namely:

  • As tools of reconciliation
  • As a way to keep business interests of spouses separate
  • As a way of spelling out how inheritances will be treated

Parental Rights For Unmarried Couples

In today’s society, it is not uncommon for unmarried people to have children together. When these couples split, there is usually not any sort of court order guiding how important decisions regarding the children will be handled.

Resolving Parenting Issues

Our attorneys have extensive experience establishing parental rights for unmarried couples. We work with our clients to obtain a clear understanding of their objectives, and then take the steps necessary to meet those goals. We help our clients obtain court orders that will cover critical parenting issues, including:

  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Child support
  • Medical decisions
  • Child care
  • Health care
  • Education
  • Religion

Why Paternity Is Important

In Utah, before custody or any other parental rights are given to a child’s father, paternity must be established. Paternity determines who is the legal father of a child. Many fathers are unaware that having their name on a child’s birth certificate is not enough to establish paternity.

Paternity is important because it not only gives the child’s father legal rights and responsibilities, but it also offers protections for the child. Once paternity is established, a child may be put on his or her father’s health insurance plan and is entitled to receive benefits, such as Social Security or veterans benefits. The child also has inheritance rights in the event that the father passes away.

Paternity is also important for the unmarried mother because it entitles her to receive child support from the child’s father.

Establishing Paternity

Paternity can be established in one of the three ways:

  • Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP) — This is a legal acknowledgement of paternity that is often signed by the parents along with the birth certificate when the child is born.
  • Administrative Paternity Order — Paternity can also be established administratively through the Office of Recovery Services if a parent applies for child support and paternity is proven.
  • Judicial paternity — This is the most powerful way of establishing paternity because it is the form of paternity that enables the ORS to set up or enforce custody or parenting time arrangements with the child. To obtain a judicial order of paternity, either parent or both parents have the right to petition to court, establishing paternity.

As soon as paternity has been established, the unmarried parents will stand in the same position as divorcing couples.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506