Do Physicians Really Need Asset Planning?

A couple consulted me about writing a will and trust for their family. The husband is a doctor and the wife is a lawyer, both in private practice. They had two young children under the age of 18 and no prior marriages. Both carried malpractice insurance for their professions and an umbrella policy. They had good cars and a residence in a nice neighborhood. They also had retirement plans and mutual funds and children in private school. They were saving for college through 529 Plans.

They wanted to protect their families and assets from lawsuits and creditors. Missouri is a great asset planning state, but the planning to protect assets should start at least four years in advance—creditors can sue to set aside the transfer. Assets can be attached if the transfer (to another person or entity or trust) occurs and the lawsuit is filed within four years of the transfer.

The best way to protect assets is to transfer the asset to a trust, other entity, or person with no recourse to the owner. However, a house jointly owned by husband and wife is not protected in the event of a divorce the property, and can be divided between the parties. The creditors of the deceased spouse can also sue to recover from the sale of the residence. Hence holding assets in joint name may not always be the answer.

The 529 plans are not subject to federal income tax and can be paid in advance up to five years depending on the plan—and are excluded from the estate of the deceased—to offer asset protection. Professional and umbrella polices may be insufficient to satisfy creditors in a lawsuit, which means that protecting other assets becomes imperative.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri


The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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