There are many sound reasons to consider hiding your money and assets. High net worth individuals may feel under constant threat of having their hard-earned wealth seized by the wrong hands. There are a variety of genuine threats to your assets, including unexpected lawsuits, creditor claims, sour divorces, and exorbitant taxes, to name just a few.
In this article we will explore some of the more popular and effective ways to legally hide your money and assets from the wrong hands. But first
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Certain types of people, such as public figures, celebrities, and politicians might feel an even greater desire to keep their assets out of public view. Those in professions that are at a higher risk of liability claims such as lawyers, doctors and business owners also have a greater need to keep their money private and protected.
The idea of hiding your assets might sound extreme and dubious, but the fact is we live in a more litigious and turbulent society than ever before, and finding ways to legally hide and protect your personal wealth is just plain smart. That’s why privacy is now an essential aspect of any well-rounded financial plan.
Before we look at the best ways to legally hide your money, it is important to first understand the difference between hiding and protecting assets, and how they go together.
There are many ways to hide assets and it can be a useful strategy. Hiding assets is a form of asset protection itself, because as long as they remain hidden, they will be protected. However, assets can be hidden but not fully protected, which means that once they are found they are just as vulnerable as your other assets. That’s why it is important to also consider the level of legal protection any strategy provides in the event that your money is discovered by prying eyes.
The best vehicles to use for financial privacy and protection are those which not only keep your ownership confidential, but also ensure that your assets remain safe and secure even if they are found by creditors and lawyers. Therefore, we will be discussing both these aspects in the strategies that are mentioned.
Before we start we should make a disclaimer here that in no way are we suggesting to hide money from the government, that is illegal, instead what we are talking about is hiding money away from unscrupulous creditors, corrupt attorneys and jealous partners.
Hiding and protection assets is perfectly legal, if done the right way.
Without further ado, let us take a look at five of the most popular ways to legally hide and protect your money some of which may or may not work in today's changing legal offshore framework.
Offshore Asset Protection Trusts (Offshore APTs) which are properly structured in the right jurisdiction can provide the most superior levels of financial privacy and protection.
These are special types of irrevocable trusts which allow you to be both the settlor and the beneficiary at the same time. Your personal assets are transferred to the trust, which is managed by a third-party trustee, and thus they are no longer legally owned by you. However, you still receive all the benefits of these assets and can manage and control them through the trustee.
This complex structure has proved time and again to be the most difficult for lawyers and other threats to get to their hands on if they are lucky enough to ever find them in the first place.
Some of the best jurisdictions in which to form an Offshore APT include Cook Islands, Belize, and Nevis. Cook Islands Trusts in particular provide unparalleled levels of privacy and protection for your money.
Due to the complex nature of Asset Protection Trusts, it is recommended to enlist the guidance of an asset protection lawyer or other professional to help you in setting up one which works for you.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are effective tools to legally hide assets if used in the correct way. Domestic LLCs provide a certain degree of privacy and good levels of protection to its owners due to the fact that they are separate legal entities. However, by far the superior vehicles for privacy and protection are offshore LLCs.
Offshore LLCs which are formed in one of many favourable offshore jurisdictions provide high levels of confidentiality for their owners, and offer complete limited liability protection. In many favourable offshore financial centres and tax havens (such as British Virgin Islands, Belize, Nevis, Montenegro, Panama etc.), the names of beneficial owners are not available to the public. It is also possible to appoint nominee shareholders and directors for even greater financial privacy.
Furthermore, the fact that they are in an entirely different jurisdiction make them more impervious to local court proceedings, which provides an added layer of protection. Offshore LLCs also provide numerous other benefits, such as reduced taxes, better business opportunities, lower costs, and more.
One of the simplest ways to ensure greater financial privacy is by opening an offshore bank account and depositing a portion of your wealth. This is a more basic approach compared to using offshore vehicles such as asset protection trusts and limited liability companies; however, it does still offer a certain degree of privacy and asset protection.
Some jurisdictions are known for the extraordinary benefits they offer as offshore banking centres. Banks in these countries provide their clients with a high degree of confidentiality, among other advantages. They also provide more safe and stable banking environments, which protects your money from other risks such as economic collapses, bank insolvency, political upheavals etc.
Offshore bank accounts are a legitimate way to hide your money from unwanted attention, and they have the advantage of being extremely easy to set up and maintain. However, Offshore accounts do no offer the protection that Offshore Trusts do. Gone are the days of the anonymous offshore accounts. That is not to say that offshore accounts are pointless. In fact that do offer a degree of privacy and protection that can be used especially when an offshore corporate account is opened with an LLC that is then paired with an offshore Cook Islands trust. This combination remains the most advantageous asset protection, privacy and security money can buy.
Historically, retirement investment accounts have been a popular way to hide and protect money from greedy creditors and lawyers. Using retirement accounts for this purpose definitely still has its place, as they can offer a certain degree of privacy and protection. In many states, there are laws which protect your retirement funds from being seized, even in the case of lawsuits or bankruptcy.
That being said, the level of protection that these laws provide are generally not nearly as powerful as those which apply to vehicles like asset protection trusts, for example. In many places, there are ways for courts to get around these protective measures and claim your retirement funds anyway, especially if they can show that you have another viable source of income for your retirement. Furthermore, as the focus of our discussion is hiding your money, retirement funds are not necessarily the best choice. While they may do a good job at protecting your money in certain circumstances, they do not offer the kind of confidentiality that the aforementioned offshore financial structures do.
One other method which has been used with varying success is to simply transfer ownership of your assets to a trusted person, most often a close family member. While this strategy does indeed effectively remove the asset from your ownership, making it safe and hidden in the event that you are sued, it is fraught with risks.
First off, you need to consider just how completely you can trust the person you are transferring ownership to. While it may seem like a safe idea at the time, relationships and circumstances can change at any moment. You are effectively giving up ownership of the asset to another person, which could end badly if there are problems in the relationship down the line.
The second issue is that if you specifically transfer ownership as a way to protect the assets from a pending court case, you may well be accused of fraudulent transfer. As we are interested in how to legally hide your money, this doesn’t exactly tick all the boxes.
Lastly, you should realise that you are not the only one who is at risk of unexpected lawsuits and asset claims. Your family member might have just the same level of risk of things going awry. If they are themselves landed with a liability suit, it would place the very assets which you were trying to protect on the line in their own name.
As you can see, there are numerous different strategies which can be used to legally hide and protect your money. You might be wondering: “which is the best strategy for me?”. In fact, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Every individual has their own unique set of circumstances and objectives. Choosing the best strategy will be greatly dependent on these individual factors, as each method has its own benefits and shortcomings.
One recommendation when forming the ultimate strategy for asset protection and privacy is to use a multi-pronged approach. Rather than relying on one of the above strategies and putting all your eggs in one basket, it is better to have a diverse approach. We have only mentioned a few of the more popular methods, but there are many more out there. Making use of a variety of strategies simultaneously can provide a much greater level of overall protection, and ensure a comprehensive and well-rounded asset protection strategy.
What we recommend as mentioned before is the use of an offshore Nevis LLC that opens an offshore corporate bank account all of which is held in a Cook Islands Trust of which nominee owners can be used (in the right situation) so as to completely make you and your assets legally hidden and protected.
As always, it is highly advisable to get expert and individualised guidance on the matter from a professional. They can help you find the best way to hide your money and assets legally, which suits your own unique requirements.
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