What is Asset Protection Law?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Asset protection law is an area of the law concerning exemption of certain types of assets from civil judgments. These assets cannot be seized to cover debt liability. Also known as debtor-creditor law, asset protection law creates a mechanism for saving critical assets like the homes people live in and their retirement accounts, so they can survive after a monetary judgment is made. Some assets are protected automatically, while in other cases, people may need to take steps to secure their assets.

A courthouse.
A courthouse.

When a monetary judgment is entered against someone in a civil case, that individual is given a set period of time to pay the judgment, establish a payment plan, or appeal the case on the grounds the outcome was unfair. If people fail to pay, their assets can be seized to satisfy the debt. Asset protection law concerns those assets that cannot be seized. The extent of the law varies by jurisdiction, with some nations providing vigorous protection under the law for a variety of assets, while others do not.

There are a number of legal procedures people can use to exempt assets from judgment, including filing for special protections or moving assets to other locations. Asset protection law spells out the differences between legal activities, like filing for homestead protection on a home, and illegal ones, like hiding money in offshore accounts so it cannot be seized. Attorneys specializing in this type of law are familiar with the ins and outs and know what kinds of options are available to people facing civil judgments.

This area of the law is constantly evolving. Asset protection law changes to reflect new developments in the financial industry, weak points in the law identified by analysts, and tactics used by unscrupulous attorneys and others to take assets out of reach of the court. Keeping track of changes to the law generally requires subscribing to trade journals, attending conferences, and keeping a close eye on shifts in legal thinking in various regions. Attorneys who offer asset protection services to their clients use all of these tools to make sure they can serve their clients as completely as possible.

Attorneys focusing on asset protection law can be found in many regions, especially major financial centers. People who think they, or their companies, might be subject to a civil judgment can meet with an attorney ahead of time to discuss options and work on getting protection in place. Once a judgment has already been entered, there may be less an attorney can do, although the services of a specialty attorney can still be beneficial.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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