We don’t always know when it is going to hit the fan, but it sure seems to be hitting Bill Cosby’s fan right now. I suppose it could happen to anyone. But if you’re rich and famous, it can hit fast and make a big mess. So, whether you have engaged in inappropriate behavior or not, for many it’s simply best to be prepared with a well-thought-out plan to protect those around you.
Here are a couple of strategies (in Texas, anyway) to consider if you fear that someday somebody will make a run at your sizeable estate:
1. Make your estate scarce by creating a fictitious entity, such as a Family Limited Partnership or Family Trust Agreement. By creating this “alter” entity, you legally remove assets from your own name and title them into the fictitious entity. Now, don’t let the term “fictitious” alarm you or make you think this move is improper or illegal. It’s not-and I would imagine that Dr. Cosby has something like this set up for him and his family. When you create one of these entities, all assets of the marital estate are placed into the ownership of the entity. In other words, when you buy a car, a house, a diamond necklace, or whatever fine item that makes you happy, it is bought and titled into the name of the entity. Theoretically, you could essentially have nothing titled in your own name, and everything you own (or not own) titled in the name of the entity.
2. Have a Pre- or Post-Nuptial Agreement that favors your spouse with the assets of the marital estate. A Pre- or Post-Nuptial Agreement allows you to pass or transfer the character of the assets of the marital estate to become separate property of the other spouse. Of course, you will need to have a lot of trust in your spouse to defer possible control over your assets. And in the event you get a divorce, you might already have given your spouse all of your assets, leaving the marital estate with very little to divide between the husband and wife and you with no separate property of your own. I wonder if Mrs. Cosby is feeling this love right about now. . . .
These are only two ways (out of many) to consider protecting your assets, and every couple has its unique set of circumstances. If you are a target, then seek out a lawyer who can help you create a customized plan to give you that buffer from a potentially litigious public. If you wait too late, then . . . well, you’ll be too late. This philosophy also applies if you’re trying to (legally) avoid estate taxes upon your death.
I hope Bill Cosby is innocent, on a personal note. The Cosby Show from the 1980s still brings back great memories for me, as well as watching Fat Albert on Saturday mornings in the late 1970s. But you’ve got to feel for his wife and daughters who have to go through this as well.