For some real estate investing gurus out there, anonymity is the name of the game. Some try to tell you,”No one can sue you if they don’t know who you are.” But you need to know that anonymity is a myth.
In this day and age, no one is anonymous. Even if you keep yourself out of search results online for a casual browser, there are industry databases that can easily search out every property you have ever been associated with, whether your name was on the official title or not.
Land trusts are very popular these days. The gurus claim that you can be “anonymous” by using them. The thought is that if people can’t see your name on the trust, they can’t sue you. It is true that it does offer some small hurdle to a casual observer, but you aren’t truly anonymous. Somehow, somewhere, you are connected with your property. If someone is really after you, there are ways to track down every mortgage you ever signed on, every insurance policy you took out, every credit line you applied for. It is almost impossible to get full anonymity.
That is, unless you truly cut all ties, including ownership and beneficial interest. I knew a guy whose lawyer convinced him to hide his assets offshore, back when that was the thing. The lawyer told him to truly make it work, he had to give up not only ownership, but also control. The lawyer had full control; the guy’s name wasn’t on anything. After he died, the family went to the lawyer and asked about getting the money back. The lawyer said “what money?” There wasn’t any record he had anything overseas. It was hidden so well that it simply disappeared. I can tell you that the lawyer retired young. No ownership and no control whatsoever over an asset means you have nothing.
How To Protect Your Investments and Yourself
For maximum asset protection, it is much better to skip the anonymity craze and concentrate on setting up proper entities to hold and manage your property for maximum asset protection. As I explain in some of my previous blogs, you can get a small bit of anonymity by putting your property in a land trust. But you would have better protection by setting up two LLCs–one to hold the property and one to manage it.
If you have a management company, someone hurt on the property will likely complain to and go after the management company. If you keep things separate (ownership and management), it is possible that the issue will stop at the management company and never get to the owner. Note however, some states have laws associated with management companies, so check out your state requirements.
If you set up your structure correctly, you can mitigate the disasters that are certain to come, and it’s possible that you could survive with a good part of your assets in tact. Protecting your assets isn’t hard, but it isn’t achieved by anonymity. It’s achieved by good legal structuring for asset protection. It just needs to be done right.