In his article, When is it Too Late for Asset Protection?, Attorney Robert Mintz discusses the pitfalls of asset protection planning.
He points out that states, including Illinois, have fraudulent transfer laws. These laws prohibit an individual from transferring property to another entity to “hinder, delay or defraud” someone owed a debt in order to avoid paying that debt. As a result of these laws, there is little one can do to protect assets against a claim that has already been made, sometimes referred to as an “existing claim”.
Where asset protection planning is allowable and is effective is in the situation where an individual seeks to protect himself from unseen future risks. Mr. Mintz gives the following example in his article: ” . . . say you set up an asset protection plan and a negligent act involving a patient occurs several months later. Fraudulent transfer is not an issue in this case because the property transfer was unrelated to the claim subsequently developed by this patient. Presumably, at the time you implemented your asset protection plan, you did not know or intend that the patient would be injured. Similarly, loans and contracts entered into after establishing a plan, as long as the creditor is not misled, are also outside the scope of the fraudulent transfer rules.”.
Illinois law is clear that the fraudulent transfer laws can overturn an asset protection plan where the intent of the plan was to avoid paying an existing claim. It is also clear that in Illinois asset protection planning to protect against unforeseen future risks is allowed and is effective. The tricky part comes in when one is confronted with the situation where one must prove to a court that the transfers involved fall into this second, acceptable area of planning.
Consult your estate planning attorney for further information.