Boiling Lobsters Alive is Illegal…in the USA

Much ado was recently made about Switzerland banning boiling lobsters alive. The internet lit up with discussions about how to ethically cook a delicious lobster and whether or not lobsters feel pain. People love lobsters both alive and on a plate. For those who love them on a plate, there was plenty of outrage that a country would ban such a practice. Sources in Maine tell me there is no other way to prepare a lobster.

Switzerland is not the first to ban the practice. In fact, boiling lobsters alive has been outlawed in the United States since at least 1999.

No, I haven’t lost my mind.

This is probably news to you and you may be doubting what I write. The fact is though, New Zealand banned boiling lobsters alive (and cutting into them while alive) back in 1999. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to legally kill a lobster in New Zealand. Perhaps a humane suffocation? That’s besides the point though. The law reads that no live lobster shall be tossed into a boiling pot of water. And the big kicker: since it is illegal to boil a live lobster in New Zealand, it is therefore illegal to boil a live lobster in the USA.

The Lacey Act

Why does a New Zealand law have anything to do with the United States you ask? In 1900 the US passed the Lacey Act. It was a law meant to protect plants and wildlife, which it did. But it also eventually made it a federal crime to boil a live lobster. The Lacey Act reads it is a federal crime “to possess any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law or Indian tribal law.”

“Taken” means killed. A restated version is “it is a federal crime to possess any wildlife killed in violation of any foreign law.” New Zealand law bans killing lobsters alive, therefore, the United States bans killing lobsters alive. Penalties range from $10,000 fines to 5 years in jail per violation. No sweat! And yes…people have been prosecuted under this law.

What’s the point?

No, you probably won’t have the feds kick down your door after a romantic dinner at the Red Lobster. I bring this point up to illustrate that the US government can use the laws of foreign countries to send you to jail or TAKE your assets. If that is the case, then why would you not consider using the laws of foreign countries to PROTECT your assets?

A number of countries have enacted laws that offer extra liability protection for people around the world. A couple of examples of some ways to get extra liability protection in those countries are through using offshore LLCs and offshore asset protection trusts. The LLC’s and trusts in these countries provide added protections that are not found in the U.S. Consider taking advantage of  some of these laws before the lobster police raid your home.

Colin Ley is an Offshore Asset Protection Trust attorney. He is the co-founder of the firm, LayRoots, along with his wife, Shreya Ley. 

Like clockwork every year, the day after school starts, our phones at LayRoots start ringing off the hook. Parents emerging from the “summer fog” as one client put it, are ready to get estate planning off the to-do list.

Many of these parents want to know our rates. They ask some variation of “what do you charge for [blank]?” Any decent estate planning attorney hates this question due to the ol’ lawyer motto…it depends.

And I get it…people want to make a budget and have an idea of what type of investment they are getting ready to shell out. I believe the reason most people ask about cost is that it is something they can understand. Most people don’t know enough about the details of estate planning to compare anything but the dollar bills.

Here are some fun analogies to drive home the point.

If you are old enough to remember working with travel agents, imagine calling one up and asking “how much is a plane ticket?”
They’d need a lot more information to give you a quote like where you want to go? Do you want to fly first, business or coach? Do you want a direct flight or do you want to save $100 by doing a couple of connecting flights?

All of those things factor into a quote for a plane ticket. And what if you were traveling from Seattle to Tacoma? The agent would tell you you don’t need a place ticket. Take a bus, my friend!

My latest favorite is to imagine I’m selling some cars. Here it goes:

“How much are your cars?” I’ve got one for $10,000 and one for $20,000.

“Ahh…well I saw one one the internet for $300.”

Right!? If you called a car dealership and all they told you was price, you’d probably have a bunch of follow up questions. What brand? How many miles? Air brakes? 249 point safety inspection? Warranty? Free oil changes for life? Show me the CARFAX!

You would need to have a lot of information to understand the value of the three different cars. Maybe you don’t want to buy a 1973 (exploding) Ford Pinto for $300. Maybe you live in Seattle and the $10,000 car is a 10-year-old Subaru with 200,000 miles (is there no respect for Blue Book Value here!?). Maybe you want to shell out $20,000 for a great deal on a Volvo with the highest safety ratings in business.

As you see, it takes a lot of information to understand the value you receive for your dollars. Estate planning might initially all seem the same, but there is a world of difference depending on what your goals and intentions are. Going beyond the sticker price will let you know whether you are getting an old Ford Pinto or a safe Volvo to drive your family to Tacoma.

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya.


What are frivolous lawsuits?

There’s a certain violence that goes unreported to the police every day in America. This violence occurs to a third of all US citizens over their lifetimes, but you don’t often see it reported in the news headlines. Millions and millions of cases a year…but you might think it can’t happen to you. What are these violent acts that slide by the authorities? Read More

What is Asset Protection?

Today I’m kicking off the Asset Protection Podcast! Episode 01 starts at the very beginning by answer the basic question: what is asset protectionRead More

How to protect your cannabis-related profits

If you search the interwebs for asset protection for the cannabis industry, you mostly find companies offering services to physically protect assets like farms, products, and piles of cash. We’re talking security, alarms, armored cars, armored men, etc. But what about protecting your assets, i.e. the profits made from successfully operating a business in the cannabis industry? Since the Trump election, people have been wondering whether the federal government will crack down the industry. Read More

Federal Trade Commission has a bill for you

A recent episode of Silicon Valley addressed what happens when a company violates a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulation. One of the show’s characters accidentally violates the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”).  The COPPA rules are meant to protect kids from all the perves lurking out on the interwebs. By overlooking these regulations, the company’s app lures in a bunch of creepy old dudes. By the time the characters figure out their mistake, they’ve already racked up millions of dollars in penalties and fines.  Read More

How to keep your side hustle a secret

Nothing seems to hotter right now than entrepreneurship. Specifically…entrepreneurship for people with jobs. I mean why work for somebody else from 40 hours a week for some jabroni when you could work for yourself for 100+ hours a week!? We’re talking about having a side hustle here. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much GaryVee, but it seems a lot of the young-folks these days want to start a business in their spare time.

So what if you have this side hustle, but you don’t want your current boss to find out about it? That’s a questions we get all the time (three times counts as “all the time” right?). Read More

Reviewing your estate plan

I’m a big advocate of regularly checking up on your estate plan. I recommend at least every 3 years or after any major life event like a death or divorce. There’s a reason we offer free, ongoing reviews for our clients and that’s because you want your estate plan to work for you.

There is a common belief that you’re all set once you have your estate planning checked off the to-do list. In fact many attorneys never Read More

What is an anonymous LLC?

Simply put, an anonymous LLC is just like a “regular” LLC, except that the ownership details of the company are not published for any Tom, Dick or Harry to review. In fact, some states don’t even share the information with the IRS. They are also known as privacy LLCs. Read More

Death in Absentia

Part of the fun of being an estate planning attorney is when people ask you interesting questions. I was recently asked what would happen if somebody disappeared on an African safari. Sure…a pretty random question for most people, but this client saw a friend go through this process after a loved one disappeared and never returned. I had no idea about the actual process, but was able to agree it would involves courts and lots of time. This friend spent about 10 years trying to resolve the matter. That’s a long time!

When you don’t know something obviously you go straight to Wikipedia the law library and crack the books. Read More

Another Privacy Rant

Ok maybe I’ve never unleashed a rant about privacy on this website…but they’re coming! And if you’ve spent any time around me in person, you’ve probably heard my complaints about privacy.

This seems like a timely rant as we have gotten (ANOTHER) glimpse behind the curtains of US government surveillance. Although it’s been known for quite some time that the government has and does collect massive amounts of data on citizens and non-citizens alike. The current revelation is that the CIA (allegedly) has the ability to monitor what was believed to be encrypted communication through apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, etc. Putting aside why I think that is terrible (and the dumb argument of “if you’ve got nothing to hide…”), I’m also concerned by Read More

Burial at Sea and other creative ideas

In the last post I wrote about how it’s often a bummer for clients to plan for their final disposition. Some people take it in stride and have some creative thoughts for how their family can say goodbye. I often share a story about a burial at sea for those who are getting creative.

Spreading ashes (or a body) can be illegal in certain places. Take the Florida man, for example, who wanted his loved ones to bury him at sea and then have a fishing party after sending his remains overboard. When the man died, his family dutifully packed him in dry ice and drove down to Daytona beach to charter a boat. They motored a few miles from shore, tossed him in the ocean, and then fished for a while in his memory. I, for one, love this plan and love the idea of burial at sea (so much so I’ve asked my wife to chuck me in the Pacific when I die).

No Cement Shoes

This man’s plan did not go so well. After the burial at sea, his body resurfaced and a fisherman discovered the floating corpse. The police came and opened a murder investigation! Detectives solved the case when they found his obituary indicating his planned “burial at sea.” It turns out having a burial at sea is highly regulated to avoid this exact scenario. Read more about the story here.

So if you’re thinking of a Viking funeral, burial at sea, or even a Sky Burial, make sure you aren’t going to turn your loved ones into criminals for carrying out your wishes!

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya (who will likely opt out of Colin’s burial-at-sea demands). 

Final Disposition Instructions

For most people, final disposition instructions are a real bummer to think about. Your final disposition instructions are basically what you want people to do with your body after you die. Nobody likes to think they will die! Doing some planning on what to do with your remains can help make things easy on your loved ones, who no doubt will be really sad you’re gone. Read More

In Trust We Trust (a.k.a. where i$ my money!?)

As an estate planning attorney, people often ask me what rights they have when it comes to trust payments. People asking these questions are concerned whether they are receiving enough distributions (nobody has complained yet about receiving too much). Or they are concerned that the trust funds are being mismanaged by the trustee (the person, or company, who runs the trust). Many times, strained family dynamics add to the conflict and confusion. Read More

The Single Member LLC

The Limited Liability Company is a popular business entity because they are easy to run and reduce the personal liability of the owners. Not all LLCs are created the same, however. In most states, multiple member LLCs are afforded more liability protection than the single member LLC, or spoused-owned LLCs in some states. Read More

Asset Protection Basics: Distinguishing between inside vs. outside liability

One of the foundations of any asset protection plan is determining what types of liability a person needs to plan for. I’ve defined inside vs. outside liability before, but it’s a very important topic, so it’s worth further exploration in this video. Read More

Healthcare Directives

As part of any estate planning package we offer at LayRoots, we work with our clients on advanced healthcare directives. Part of that planning process involves deciding whether a person wants to remain on life support after doctors decide there is no hope of recovery (i.e. when brain dead). I recently had a client who wanted to remain on life support for an extended period of time, unless it was a financial burden for her loved ones. Having never investigated the costs of long-term life support care, I was curious. Read More

Naming Guardians For Your Children as a Single Parent

At LayRoots we like to host a number of Guardian Nomination Workshops. We help parents choose and document legal guardians for their children…just in case something happens to them. One of the most common questions we get is what should a parent do if he or she has separated from his/her co-parent. Put another way, what do you do if each parent wants different guardians for the children? Read More


Owning rental property in your own name is not a good idea. Landlords face increased levels of liability compared to somebody who say, invests in bonds, or something like that. So why is it a bad idea? Check out the video for more info. Read More

Is an inherited IRA protected from creditors?

Retirement accounts are protected from creditors in Washington state. Lawsuit judgment? Bankruptcy? Your retirement savings is golden. But what if you inherit an IRA from somebody else (besides your spouse)?

An inherited IRA in Washington, and most other states, is not protected from creditors or bankruptcy. The basic reason for this: it wasn’t your retirement savings. With some asset protection trust planning, creditor protection can be passed along with your IRA. Check out the video for some more information. Read More

Asset Protection for Physicians (and others in the medical field)

Medical professionals face high levels of liability. A 2010 survey by the American Medical Association (AMA) found that more than 60% of doctors had been sued at least once by late career. Furthermore, over 80% of surgeons have been sued at least once.

The Physician Insurers Association of America writes the defense against a medical malpractice claim averages over $22,000 for lawsuits that are dropped, dismissed or withdrawn, and more than $100,000 for cases that go to trial. Read More

Does a living trust protect assets from creditors?

All trusts are not created equal. A living trust, or revocable living trust, is one of the most common trusts utilized by estate planning attorneys. It’s a great way to avoid the hassles of probate, but will the assets inside of the living trust be protected from creditors? Check out the video to learn more! Read More

One of the most common questions I receive is about protecting home equity. It makes sense as for many people, a home is one of the most valuable assets they own. Also, living in the Seattle area, the real estate market has been growing at an incredible rate! Home owners are seeing their equity sky rocket and in turn get a bit nervous about how to protect that equity from lawsuits and creditors. Check out the video to learn about how much equity is protected by state law and hear what common mistakes home owners often make. Read More

Asset protection planning involves the application of many different areas of law. The development of a comprehensive asset protection plan may involve family law, tax law, trust laws, business planning laws, state and federal bankruptcy laws, and on and on. The areas of law intersect in different ways depending on each individual’s situation and planning goals. In addition, to develop an effective plan to protect your wealth and assets from lawsuits, divorces, and creditors, you’ll benefit from working with an attorney who is versed in the practice of asset protection. Read More

Talking about death


I caught a great story about advanced healthcare directives on NPR’s Planet Money Podcast. The story covers a town in Wisconsin where 96% of residents have planned for their death. The U.S. average is around 30%. Even among people diagnosed with major illnesses, only about half of them have planned for their deaths. Read More

Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT)

In my previous video I talked about avoiding Washington estate taxes by gifting away assets if your net worth falls between $2-$5.45 million. Now many people don’t like the idea of giving away and losing control of their assets. That’s where a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust comes in. This type of asset protection trust gives you some additional options so the gifted assets are not lost in divorce or to creditors. Watch the video below for some information on these “SLATs.” Read More

Balancing Washington and Federal Estate Taxes

I recently had a conversation with a family interested in planning to avoid Washington estate taxes. This estate tax is also known as transfer tax or death tax. There is a currently a federal estate tax around $5.5 million and Washington estate taxes for estates above $2 million. People falling in between the $2-$5.5 million have an opportunity to avoid the Washington estate tax if some proper planning is put into place. Check out the video below for more. Read More

How to reduce liability in your business activities

I was having lunch with a friend, who works as a financial planner, and he mentioned a client who had been sued and who had to pay out a large settlement that was based on the value of her business as a result. Ouch. The business owner kept a lot of cash in the business for a variety of reasons (it can seem smart to do that as business owner!), so the creditor was able to collect a much larger settlement than they would have been able to if those assets were held elsewhere.

There are ways this business owner could have reduced the risk of judgments to lawsuits while maintaining the necessary or preferred amount of capital in the business. Here’s one example: Read More

D-I-Y Estate Planning

This is our obligatory comparison of online estate planning versus human estate planning.

Online estate planning documents might work just fine for you. You also might be one of those people who is great at doing his or her own research and following instructions.  You also might not have that much at risk. However, if you aren’t sure whether or not they will work for you, then think of it this way… Read More

What is Impact Investing?

Impact investing appears to be all the rage with the tech crowd and has been growing in popularity for the last 2-3 years.  Whether or not it is the right strategy for you completely depends on what your goals are and what you have accumulated so far.

Just to be clear: Impact investing is not the same as “Charitable Giving,” which is when you endow or gift something to a charity, non-profit, or private foundation.

Impact Investing, according to Michael Drexler and Abigail Noble of the World Economic Forum, is “an investment approach intentionally seeking to create both financial return and positive social impact that is actively measured.”

Read More

Real Estate Investing and Asset Protection

Real Estate Investing and Asset Protection

This post is a bit of a departure from our usual posts.  Last Saturday, Colin and I went to the Seattle Investor’s Club meeting to talk their real estate investors how to use asset protection to protect themselves.

We got a lot of really great questions about asset protection.  The people at the Seattle Investor’s Club are a great, diverse group of folks.  There are newbies, veterans, service providers, and active investors.  There are people who focus on short sales, holding long term properties, or commercial real estate.

Read More

Power of Attorney Definition

People often call us wanting a “simple will.” It’s on their “to-do” list.  They poked around on the internet, armed themselves with information, and then called us or some other estate planning attorney demanding their simple will.  That’s perfectly okay and they could be right.  Often, though, they are confused about what that simple will actually is, and how other documents, like a power of attorney can be of much greater value.

This may not be what every estate planning attorney considers a simple will, but, for us, it is actually a package of documents. The main documents that make up a simple will package is a Will, Financial Power of Attorney; a Healthcare Power of Attorney; HIPAA Releases; and the Living Will (also known as Healthcare Directives).  We include all of these documents to ensure your health AND your “stuff” are addressed in case of an emergency.  For this post, we will only be focusing on defining the Power of Attorney documents.

What is a Power of Attorney?

Read More

As an asset protection attorney, I get suspicious when I hear people talk about assets and investments that are “totally protected” from lawsuits and creditors. As the cliche goes, the only things guaranteed in life, are death and taxes. Protection from creditors always depends on the type of asset and the state (or country) you live in. Take an IRA for example. Any type of IRA is protected from creditors for residents of Washington state. BUT if you move to Oregon, only certain types (ERISA qualified) IRAs are protected.

If you’ve met with a financial planner in recent years, you’ve probably heard about whole life insurance policies or high cash value life insurance policies. 100% of the advisors I have met have stated that these policies are protected from creditors. Turns out, you need to slap a lawyer’s two favorite words on there: “it depends.” Read More

What is a living trust?

One of the common questions I receive as a Seattle estate planning attorney is “what is a living trust?” A living trust is a versatile tool. You maintain control over assets while you are alive and you skip probate as you transfer property at your death. It is usually referred to as a revocable living trust. A revocable trust can be changed, modified or terminated by the person who created the trust (known as a trustor or grantor). Compare that to an irrevocable trust, which cannot be terminated or modified without permission from the beneficiary of the trust. Read More

Asset Protection Strategies: Be aware of silly liability laws

One of many important asset protection strategies is being aware of the changing laws that affect you. You can do that by having an asset protection attorney on your team of trusted advisors (hint hint). You can also read the local paper to see what crazy new laws and regulations are being passed. Read More

If you think back to the 80s, you might remember the McDonald’s McDLT (check out the commercial below if you don’t remember). McDonald’s was selling a burger with packaging that kept the hot side hot, and the cool side cool. Although the McDLT didn’t last, the hot vs. cool  asset strategy is used in smart asset protection and estate planning protection. Read More

Lawyer-Humans® treat clients like people, not case files. We are dedicated to helping families and business owners create solid foundations for an awesome life.

This is not our first rant about online DIY legal planning. Here are some good reasons why generic legal documents are no good.  This post, specifically, is about generic operating agreements for your business.  If you own an LLC, you should have an operating agreement for your company.

Read More

Legacy Planning: Private Foundation vs. Public Charity

We hear the term “non-profit” bandied about a lot in the news and in the community.  I believe that most people have a very specific thing in mind when they hear non-profit, but it can actually be used to refer to a few different types of organizations.

Generally, when people say and hear non-profit, they mean a public charity.  They think of something like Charity: Water, or more local to Seattle, Compass Housing Alliance.

There are a few different types of tax-exempt statuses with the IRS. Read More

As an asset protection attorney I get a lot of questions about how to protect home equity. For a lot of people that is one of their most valuable assets. And its no surprise that home owners are building more equity and are concerned about keeping it safe and sound. Reading some recent news headlines you’ll see home prices are rising faster in Washington than any other state and Seattle home prices continue to rocket up and break record prices. Read More

A Domestic Asset Protection Trust (DAPT) provides one of the highest levels of asset protection planning without going “offshore” (planning in a foreign country). The DAPT is an irrevocable trust with spendthrift provisions. In regular English, this is a legal fiction (the trust) allowing a person to shield their assets from lawsuits and creditors.  Unlike most irrevocable trusts, you are not completely giving up the use or benefit of the assets in the trust. Read More

Personal Representative vs. Power of Attorney

Many people don’t understand why they need a Personal Representative AND a Financial Power of Attorney.  However, let’s first start with the definitions of the two:

Personal Representative (sometimes an Executor or Administrator) – this is when an individual has the right and responsibility to manage the finances, property, and other assets of the deceased; the individual is appointed by the Court during the probate process, having been designated in a last will, or the individual is chosen by the court if there is no will.

An aside: If the deceased has chosen to avoid probate, then there is a Trustee instead of Personal Representative and is the person in charge of administering the trust.  

Financial Power of Attorney (a.k.a. Durable Power of Attorney) – this is when you give another person legal authority to act on your behalf, by making financial or legal decisions for you, when you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to.

They sound similar and they kind of are BUT the Personal Representative comes into play after death and the Power of Attorney is in effect any time that you are alive, but unable to communicate for yourself.  So, a person designated as your agent with Financial Power of Attorney would be able to act on your behalf if you are in a coma, in the hospital, or out in the woods outside of cell phone reception and there’s an emergency in your family or business.

You can give your agent with Financial Power of Attorney as much or as little power as you’d like.  One example is that Colin was able to fill out legal banking documents on my behalf while I was out of town because he is designated as my agent with Financial Power of Attorney.

(My debit card number got stolen.  Colin and I were adamant about working with and supporting a more local bank and although they win at customer service most of the time, it *can* be inconvenient if you have a jet-setting lifestyle)

The Personal Representative duties can also be divided up.  For instance, we have known people who have designated a separate Administrator or Personal Representative for their business and for their personal estate.

An estate planning attorney can help you decide what structure is right for you.

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya. 

An irrevocable trust is a part of most serious, asset protection strategies. In the business of estate planning and asset protection, there are countless categories of trusts. And they all sound very serious.  When Lawyers create new categories of trusts, they often create names that are very similar, often using many of the same words, as trusts by a different name.  There are a number of main features or characteristics that differentiate every trust or every category of trust, and one such characteristic is whether a trust is revocable or irrevocable. Read More

At a recent Estate Planning Workshop, a parent asked what I considered to be the 5 main pillars of estate planning. If one parent is asking, then I guessed that other parents are wondering, so here goes:

  1. Trustee or Personal Representative. This is choosing a person to manage your money and other assets. This person handles the distribution of your estate by serving as Trustee (if you have chosen to avoid probate) or as Personal Representative through the probate process. Most people choose a trusted friend or family member who is well-organized and responsible.
  2. Beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are the people or organizations you choose to inherit your estate.  SO, by choosing beneficiaries, you are choosing who will receive your money and other assets when you die.  You choose these beneficiaries in a last will or trust, or if you don’t have either of these documents, state law will determine who gets your stuff.
  3. Guardians.  Choosing guardians to care for your children. If you are a parent to minor children you should nominate an individual or couple to serve as guardian/s (i.e., a person or a family to care for them in the way that you would want them to be cared for) in case you are incapacitated or die unexpectedly. It’s good practice to choose one or two alternate guardians after your first choice.
  4. Power of Attorney.  Many people think that personal representative and power of attorney are the same, but they are not (see here).  Financial Power of Attorney is choosing who will make financial decisions if you are incapacitated. This allows another person to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.  Choose wisely, my friends.
  5. Healthcare.  Choosing who will make healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated. If you are unable to speak for yourself, for example while unconscious in surgery or after a car accident, you may designate a person to advise your doctors and make decisions for you.

Those are the top 5 for most people and families. Some close runners-up are 1) properly completing beneficiary designation forms, tax avoidance (capital gains or estate) and business succession planning.

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya. 

Many solo-preneurs or spouse-owned businesses (“Single Member” Limited Liability Companies or business entities) think that simply registering their business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) protects them and their families from lawsuits.  You may be surprised, however, to learn that you might not be as safe as you think unless you take some additional steps. Read More

Letter of Exclusion

Know somebody in your family who you’d never want raising your children if something happened to you? You should consider writing a confidential letter of exclusion. Check out the video below for what you should do about it.

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya. 

In a previous post, I wrote about how to protect your investment property (and some reasons why you might want to). Let’s say that you have decided that you DO want to protect your investment or rental property by getting it out of your own name and into an LLC for liability protection.  Great!  Well, here are some issues that you may encounter along the way AND some ideas for how you might deal with those issues.

And if you’re not sure if this is right for you, you can always ask a trusted professional for their advice.

If you own the property outright, you could simply transfer the property into your newly minted LLC.

BUT if your property is mortgaged then by transferring the property into your business entity,  you could risk triggering a “due-on-sale” clause from your lender.  What that means: it’s a clause commonly found in mortgages to restrict transferring ownership of the property.  If your lender finds out you have transferred ownership out of your name and into an LLC, your lender could call in payment for the entire remaining balance on the note.  At this point, you could pay off your mortgage or you could refinance the mortgage (which incurs fees, hassle, and you probably won’t get the same terms as before).  Many people find dealing with that to be a pain.

If you are ok with refinancing, then the prospect of triggering the due-on-sale clause might not bother you too much. On the other hand, if you have a great loan that you want to keep, or don’t want to go through the hassle of refinancing, then there is a neat way to avoid triggering the due-on-sale clause.

There are exceptions to the due-on-sale clause, including the transfer of the mortgaged property into a revocable trust, such as a land trust. This means if you transfer ownership from your name and into a revocable land trust, your lender will not be able to demand payment of the entire note.

After your property is in your land trust, you can privately assign the beneficial interest of the trust to your LLC.  This protects your property from the things mentioned here with the protection available within the LLC business entity. An additional bonus of this method: it is a private transaction.

  1. You don’t have to register the transfer with the government or your lender, so the transfer will go unnoticed and hence, no due-on-sale payment.
  2. The land trust can be drafted in a way so that your name as owner is not posted onto public databases. The databases are often used by contingency lawyers and PIs to determine whether you are a good target for a frivolous lawsuit.

Have questions?  Email us!

Colin Ley is a Seattle asset protection attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya. 

Asset Protection Definitions: Inside & Outside Liability

When developing an asset protection plan, you’ll often hear about inside liability and outside liability. They are different and it’s important to plan for both scenarios.

Inside Liability vs. Outside Liability

Inside liability refers to claims that emerge from within an asset or business entity. For example, if you have a rental property held in an LLC and somebody is hurt on the property, that liability occurs inside of the LLC. Or in other words, the creditor claim is limited to what is inside of the LLC. The creditor could not go after the business owner’s personal assets.  (Another example would be if a client or customer were somehow “injured” and sues you.) Read More

As a Seattle estate planning attorney, I come across a number of people and clients who own rental property.  Some of them might be investors, but some of them are just regular folks – for instance, friends and family of ours, who are homeowners, have then gotten married and opted to rent out their home and move into a different place with their loved one.  Or, another common scenario is parents who buy a home or condo for their kids to live in while in college (to help save rent and instead create an investment).  After their children graduate, they start renting the property out. Read More