JF2077: Coronavirus and Asset Protection With Brian Bradley
Brian Bradley is a returning guest from episode JF1811. He has been in law for over a decade and in this episode, he wants to help you understand the best ways to protect your assets and also give some advice specific to today’s coronavirus pandemic.
Brian T. Bradley Real Estate Background:
- Asset Protection Attorney for Investors, Self-Made Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, High-Risk Professionals, and Affluent Families
- Sets up systems and strategic teams for our client’s asset protection and wealth management
- Based in Portland, OR
- Say hi to him at https://btblegal.com/
- Best Ever Book:
Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co
Best Ever Tweet:
“Plan before you need it, don’t wait till after an attack happens.” -Brian Bradley
Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’re speaking with Brian Bradley. Brian, how you doing today?
Brian Bradley: I’m doing great, Theo. Thanks for having me back on and I look forward to jumping into a little bit of a different talk about asset protection today.
Theo Hicks: Absolutely. So as he just mentioned, he is a repeat guest. So if you wanna check out his first interview and hear his best ever advice and the best way to protect your assets, check out Episode 1811. So this is going to be a Skillset Sunday. So we’re gonna talk about a specific skill that will help you in your real estate investing journey. So we’re going to talk about all things asset protection, and more specifically, we are going to talk about how the advice that Brian can give today relates to the Coronavirus. So before we dive into that, Brian, do you mind giving the Best Ever listeners a reminder about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Brian Bradley: Yeah. So a little background about me – got into law and practice of law around 2008 back when the economy tanked, and I just had to sort of jump into court and figure it out how to sink and swim on my own. So I spent the first three years just purely in court, representing clients for free, which was a great experience. So I got more trial experience and litigation experience in those first three years than most people have in 25 years of experience, just because if you’re representing people to organizations for free, who’s not going to use you?
So then that just trickled down into – well, I like money, I like financing, I like investing on my own, and I got tired of seeing problems walk in the door when it was too late. So I started incorporating asset protection into my practice because I wanted to help people keep what they have and have a stress-free life, knowing when something bad were to happen or negligent happened, that they can sleep soundly, a little bit better, knowing they have the system and teams in place beforehand. So I started building a secondary portion of my practice around asset protection, but higher levels of asset protection for investors and doctors and real estate investors, higher net worth clients, generally around that million-dollar net worth mark or more, or for people who are trying to be full-time investors and how to scale them up to that protection level down the line. I just wanted to get ahead of the problems for people so that they know that there’s solutions for them.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing that. So one of the questions I have for you is about lawsuits that you see coming down the line for business owners and investors due to the Coronavirus. So maybe we could talk a little bit about that, but more specifically, in addition to that, maybe you can mention some of the things that people haven’t done that they should have done leading up to this moment that is the result in them being affected by these types of lawsuits.
Brian Bradley: Absolutely. It might be a little long-winded answer to cover some of that, but I’ll try to jumble through it without boring anybody. But it’s a great question and it’s obviously a really big topic, and it’s a really polarizing issue, but people are gonna have to go to work and have to invest at some point, and whenever these regulations start getting lessened, you’re just gonna have to do it the right way. So the key in any crisis is first, you’re gonna have to weather the storm; and what’s obvious is that if income goes down without expenses going down in the same amount, then you’re gonna start depleting your assets. You’ve gotta have some control over your expenses. What’s also critical though, is your assets, and especially your hard assets like real estate, because they give you the ability to subsidize and reduce income to ride out of that crisis. So the last thing that you need is to have a creditor attach a lien or tell you how you’re going to use that asset, when you potentially need to use it to ride out a bad crisis.
So the sad thing is that we now also have to add the liability and cause of COVID-19 to the list of things that investors and business owners need to start planning for. So you want your assets and equity safe. You want to protect your future and your legacy. You didn’t spend all your time building this for it to just go away, but a lot of us just don’t know how to do it. It’s a common pattern that pandemics and recessions or fear of recessions bring on substantial increases in lawsuits. Just look at how many lawsuits were filed in 2008 to 2010 during that recession.
So what we’re looking at through legal bar associations and the litigation arena is a really big concern of a substantial rise in what’s called casualty claims and employee claims, and there’s going to be supply chain disruptions and that’s going to cause projects to not be completed, or just money not be available to pay… So you’re gonna have those lawsuits coming there through breach of contracts, and inability to perform… A lot of other breach of contract claims and administrative claims and internal liability claims of businesses.
For example, we have general liability claims that alleged negligence for failing to protect a customer, or invitee or a tenant, especially if a death is involved, and that can be extended to a family member, not just that individual employee or guests. So what we’re talking about is also a potential rise of casualty insurance claims for negligent acts, and we’re also preparing for a possibility that the insurance industries may experience what’s called negative coverage. So as some carriers are already excluding COVID-19 from general liability coverage because it’s been classified as an epidemic and global emergency, so that gives them that wiggle room out. So that’s going to put you on the personal liability hook because of the World Health Organization classifying COVID-19 as a global health emergency. That’s also going to affect your employer’s liability coverage, and you’re most likely not going to be able to use that as coverage in an event of an illegal incident happening.
So all this makes asset protection and preventative planning even more important, because you don’t want to wait around for something bad to happen. You can’t be ahead of the game; you want to protect yourself before something bad happens and mitigate the risk. So what asset protection does, in this case, is it creates the legal barriers that you’ll need. It levels the playing field if you ever were attacked, and what you need to do as investors or syndicators, landlords or general partners or high-risk professionals like doctors or if you have a high net worth, is talk to an asset protection attorney and start practicing conservative methods of protection and be preventative. Plan before you need it; don’t wait for after an attack happens.
So a breakdown of a few steps that you can take are to recognize if your income is reduced and your expenses aren’t. That’s going to shorten the amount of time that you can meet your obligations, like paying bills and paying payroll and things like that. So next, you need to take steps to protect your hard assets, because those are critical to giving you the ability to weather any storm. You can’t afford, like I said, to let a creditor decide how to use those assets. You need to be the one deciding what you need to do with them.
The final step is to create a plan. So first, you need to reduce your expenses quickly and efficiently, but don’t handicap your business to the point that you’re not even going to be able to give yourself a chance to evolve and thrive. You don’t want to deplete yourself of revenue coming in to actually have a business that can function. So these first few steps you can do on yourself.
The second step is legally securing your assets and protecting them from having a claim attached to them, and that’s asset protection – that involves legal professionals. So some good questions to think about and ask yourself are – do you have employees that are located or traveling to areas where there’s been documented and diagnosed cases of COVID-19? Most likely everyone’s going to say yes to that. Does your business increase the probability of employees exposed to infected individuals? Most likely, yes. Do your employees work in close proximity with vendors or other partners who have given employees a greater potential to contract COVID-19? Potentially, yes. Most likely, yes.
So if your answers to any of those or all of those are yes, then you need to come up with a potential contingency plan on how you are going to manage your business to mitigate these risks. You’re going to have to think about these and talk to some experts and start making a plan to go forward to stay in compliance with the federal guidelines in your state and local guidelines, so that you can decrease these negligent claims. At the end of the day, you want to be able to keep doing business, but you need to keep doing business smartly.
Theo Hicks: Well, thank you for all that. That was all great information and I appreciate how you broke down it. Because I was gonna ask you, “Well, what’s the next step?” So you told us that. “What’s a question to think about?” Well, you told us that too. So I guess my follow up question would be – so you mentioned those three steps, which is, number one, to determine if your income is reducing more than your expenses are, step two is to protect your hard assets so that you’re able to decide what you can do with them, and step three was to create a plan to reduce the expenses, but making sure you’re not handicapping your business. So steps one and three, you said that people can do on their own. Step two, you need to find someone. So how do you find this someone, and then also, can you just find anyone who does asset protection, or is there a certain question that you should be asking these types of people to make sure I’m finding the person who is the right fit for me?
Brian Bradley: That’s a great question. So you’re not going to go to a general estate plan attorney, like someone who just is drafting revocable living trusts and wills, and medical directors, because that’s not asset protection; that’s just traditional estate planning. So you’re going to want to find an attorney who specializes and specifically does asset protection, which is using asset protection trusts, LLCs, business organization type of structures, but specifically to protect your assets.
You just want to find out what percentage of their business is purely asset protection, or are they just dabbling in and then dipping their toes in it? I really wouldn’t want to recommend someone go to a person who does 20% of their practice as asset protection, because they’re not going to be really familiar with the language and the liability and how to mitigate all the risks properly. You want to go to someone whose main focus of their practice purely is asset protection, and then what type of clients do they have. Do they have clients similar to your level of assets that need to be protected, your specific circumstances? If you’re a doctor, how many doctors do they have? If you’re a real estate investor, how many real estate investment clients do they have? What kind of different systems do they use for each? Or are they just trying to sell you one size fits all systems? Nobody’s one size fits all, everybody has a personal issue. So everything has to be created personally.
So I would just say, ask those type of questions and make sure you go to a specialist, just like you would a doctor. You’re not going to go to a general doctor for brain surgery, you’re going to go to a brain surgeon.
Then one of the things we were talking about back before we started recording was the potential recessions and what to do, and it ties into COVID-19 because people have no idea. Are we going to go into a recession or not? I can’t tell you, I don’t know. Half my wealthy clients think that there’s not going to be a recession. Some of them do. Some of them are over panicky and conservative. I see a mix, so I can’t really tell you personally what I think, because I see a different spectrum of opinions… But I’d say it’s just human nature to panic when things are uncertain. But the first thing is just stay calm, don’t make rash decisions based off of news clips.
We’re in a geopolitical instability, but there’s nothing new. We also have things going on with oil in Saudi Arabia, trying to push a lot of cheap oil to hurt Russia out there and take them out of the market. Combine this with COVID-19 and Corona, and we have a really crazy, poisonous geopolitical cocktail going on. So even when you think the world and economy is on fire, like it was just a little bit of time ago, what did we just learn? We can throw a monkey wrench in it for things that we have no idea who saw COVID-19 coming. Then all of a sudden, the economy’s on hold; no one’s working.
So the issue is just be proactive, protect your assets beforehand, even when times are good. And when times are potentially bad, and we see recessions, to recession-proof our assets, one, talk to your financial advisor. Diversify – that’s a great thing, but diversification doesn’t protect your assets. You’ve got to put them into mechanisms like asset protection trust that we talked about in the past, or business organizations, or combining the two of them together to actually give you the protection that you need. It’s not a matter of if a claim is against you, it’s a matter of how collectible you are. So that’s something that you can control, is your collectability. No matter if there’s a recession or good times or bad times, that’s something that’s in your control.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. Then going back to those steps that you can take. So create a plan, reduce expenses, but don’t handicap your business. I’m assuming you work with real estate investors, correct?
Brian Bradley: Oh, yeah. Most of my clients are in real estate.
Theo Hicks: Okay. What types of expenses do you see them focusing on reducing the most?
Brian Bradley: Right now, their biggest concerns are potential financing issues or supply chain issues. Most of them are all business as usual, especially the syndicators and large developers, and my clients that have apartments. Honestly, I haven’t had a single client that hasn’t been able to collect a rent check yet, and we’re not really seeing anyone slow down. Every one of my clients– and we have, I think, overall in the whole system, over 3000 clients, and I haven’t had anybody yet say that they’re having an issue building or collecting rents. So what they’re looking at is just potential supply chain issues with current developments, and what they can potentially do to alleviate that concern right there. Some people are talking about force majeure arguments, and that’s not really going to work. That’s like acts of God, and trying to use COVID-19 as a pandemic as an act of God. That’s going to be a state by state argument, but even those are going to potentially fall through. That’s a whole other episode of a conversation right there – a dive into force majeure as a legal argument.
So I would say other steps that they would do is just practice social distancing, making sure that tools are clean, worksites are safe… Whenever you’re sending out an employee to go, just make sure that you’re sending them out with the equipment that they need, to make sure that they potentially mitigate the contact that they have with COVID-19, and then start working on your supply chain, making sure you stay ahead of it… Because one of the things with litigation is always, “Well, what did you do to mitigate your risk?” So you’ve got to be planning on this down the line. So that would be maybe talk to your contract attorney on that and come up with some alternatives to your supply chain in case it gets disrupted.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. Is there anything else as it relates to asset protection and the Coronavirus that we haven’t talked about already that you want to mention?
Brian Bradley: Not really about the Coronavirus, specifically, but there is one principle I think real estate and any investor needs to understand. It’s just about legal authority over practical authority, because this is what it comes down to when you ever do get sued… And just the reality is that a judge can do and does do whatever a judge wants, whether you have an LLC or LP. Yeah, they’re governed by state statutes, but those state statutes don’t transfer to other states. So you hope that everything works out in theory.
For example, I have a Nevada LLC and I’m being sued in California – you would hope that those internal shields would hold up, but theory and practicality don’t really ever work out. Practical authority is the power a judge actually has to make decisions, and judges have very, very broad powers and they have a superpower called the court of equity, and they can reach into your assets and seize them, place some liens on them, foreclose them, ordering sheriff’s sales, clearing title… There’s a lot of things a judge can do, and the problem is judges even without legal authority do these things all the time, and even if it’s in direct contradiction to statutes and case law, especially when they’re exercising their magic power, the court of equity.
So the solution to this really is to just try to level the playing field and then hindering the judge’s practical authority over your assets, so that they can’t circumvent the legal process. And you do that with just preventative and strong asset protection planning and having asset protection trusts in place and different layers of protection. So that would be my last caveat of why we really care – the legal system’s messed up. It’s not what it was 30 or 40 years ago. Things we did 30 or 40 years ago don’t apply today, because we’ve had this massive litigation shift by attorneys being able to take on clients commission-based for a percentage, which wasn’t allowed in the past, and attorney advertising, which wasn’t allowed in the past… So it turns the legal field into a business and an industry with a billion-dollar (B) market point. So we just need to realize the system’s not what it used to be anymore, and you need to protect yourself against the dysfunctional system now.
Theo Hicks: Thanks for adding that. So if the Best Ever listeners want to learn more about what we talked about today, learn more about the services you have to offer, what should they do?
Brian Bradley: They can jump on my website, www.btblegal.com, and I have lots of educational videos on there, and pamphlets and brochures to browse through. They can just email questions to me brian [at] btblegal.com. I do free consultations, just because I’d rather have people get educated on what their liability is, and different options; even if you don’t use from me. Most people are afraid to talk to lawyers because they don’t want to pay a consultation fee when they want to shop around, and I just find most people just become google lawyers and are getting bad advice, because they’re not getting advice. So just start reaching out to lawyers and don’t be afraid to contact them, and most lawyers will do free consultations, and that’s what I do, just to educate people.
Theo Hicks: Best Ever listeners, make sure you take advantage of that. Brian, I really appreciate coming on the show today and talking to us about asset protection and Coronavirus. From my perspective, one of the biggest takeaways is that obviously, right now you want to try to do what you can to weather the storm, but at the end of the day, the people who are going to do fine or better during this time are the ones who, as you mentioned, were proactive and protect their assets when things were all fine and dandy, when everything was going smoothly, as opposed to trying to do it now.
So you talked about a few steps we can take – creating a plan to reduce expenses, because obviously if income goes down and your expenses don’t go down, that’s where people get into trouble… But really, as I said, at the end of the day, it sounds like the assets need to be protected. So I guess, do that now, while you still have the chance, because as Brian mentioned, he expects there to be an increase in lawsuits coming down the line, which is typical for recessions and pandemics like this. So Brian, again, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today about this asset protection advice during the Coronavirus.
Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day, and we will talk to you tomorrow.
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