“I live in Alexandria Virginia. Near the Supreme Court Chambers is a toll bridge across the Potomac. When in a rush, I pay the dollar toll and get home early. However, I usually drive outside the downtown section of the city and cross the Potomac on a free bridge. This bridge was placed outside the downtown Washington, DC area to serve a useful social service, getting drivers to drive the extra mile and to help alleviate congestion during the rush hour taxes

If I went over the toll bridge and through the barrier without paying the toll, I would be committing tax evasion. If, however, I drive the extra mile and drive outside the city of Washington to the free bridge, I am using a legitimate, logical, and suitable method of tax avoidance, and I am performing a useful social service by doing so.

For my tax evasion, I should be punished. For my tax avoidance, I should be commended. The tragedy of life today is that so few people know that the free bridge even exists.”

Our progressive tax system in the United States facilitates the redistribution of wealth from the more fortunate to the less fortunate. Now, the U.S. judicial system is also being used to redistribute wealth through litigation. Entrepreneurs, business owners, retirees and others who have accumulated any significant amount of wealth are often financially devastated by the U.S. judicial system.

With that in mind, it is easy to see why even a person of average wealth with assets at risk would benefit from implementing a wealth management plan to protect assets from the claims – especially the frivolous claims – of unknown future judgment creditors. Among many other exceptions to liability insurance coverage, most insurance policies do not cover punitive damages or employment-related claims.

Insurance against the most common source of judgments and settlements over $1 million, automobile accidents, is only very rarely maintained at the level necessary to cover such claims. In fact, it may be prohibitively expensive or impossible to insure at such a high level of coverage. While insurance is the first line of defense against legal claims for damages, it is impossible to insure against many sources of significant potential liability.

It is essential to implement an asset protection plan integrated with your estate plan. Your asset protection plan will greatly enhance your estate plan by providing additional assurance that you and your family will be able to reap the fruits of your labor, and often, by providing the means to make gifts of interests in protected assets to family members – gifts which are protected from your unknown future creditors and from all of the creditors of your family members. Simply put, the objective of legitimate offshore asset protection planning is to avoid litigation altogether by using a structure involving the prudent use of professional advice and foreign law; it is not intended to protect dishonest or incompetent persons from creditors. Legitimate tax-neutral, flexible offshore asset protection and investment vehicle are available.

International variable life insurance and international variable annuities with reputable companies in secure offshore jurisdictions can be attractive investment vehicles. In addition to being well protected, because they have different commission structures they are not subject to certain U.S. taxes, offshore life insurance policies and annuities can be significantly less expensive than comparable products offered in the United States.

►What Asset Protection Planning Is Not

Asset protection planning and proper tax planning do not involve tax evasion or anti-IRS theories. All solid well designed asset protection planning is done with full IRS compliance and disclosure.

Asset protection advice is not “cookie-cutter” planning. Avoid cheap asset protection “kits” promoted by dozens of providers via seminars or the Internet. Good asset protection advice is formulated on a case-by-case basis. Neither does legitimate asset protection planning does not involve hiding money offshore and using offshore credit card accounts. While it is a bit more difficult to track protected assets offshore than in the U.S., if you rely mainly on offshore secrecy to protect assets, you will likely soon find you and your assets parted.

►Offshore Planning

Offshore business structures and offshore estate planning structures, including offshore trusts and offshore insurance policies can often offer an excellent solution to asset protection problems. Variable life insurance policies and variable annuity contracts which are compliant with U.S. tax laws, offer a wider range of investment opportunities, and are often available at lower costs than comparable U.S. policies for policies with total aggregate premiums of over $100,000.

Be careful in choosing an Offshore Planning and Asset Protection Planning Consultant.

A Web search will reveal hundreds of offshore service providers offering various offshore tax planning and asset protection schemes, as well as company formation services. How do you choose one out of all of these?

First, look for a consultant with extensive tax experience who can provide competent and comprehensive U.S. tax advice. Most reputable offshore service providers specifically disclaim the U.S. tax consequences of their structures and suggest that you seek the advice of U.S. tax counsel. Less reputable offshore service providers will claim that their plans are set up in jurisdictions where there are no income taxes, no capital gains taxes and no death taxes. While true – for that jurisdiction – the U.S. tax consequences are entirely different.