There are many reasons why you may want to know how to hide property ownership, and a reputable attorney can explain. Call the Law Office of Paul Black today!
Author: Paul Black
Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: December 13, 2022.
Can You Keep the Ownership of Your Property Private?
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If you own significant wealth in real estate or chattels (personal property), you may wonder whether there are ways to keep your ownership of such assets hidden from the public.
Keeping your ownership interest private can help protect you from lawsuits in today’s highly litigious society. Most people who file lawsuits over otherwise trivial issues do so because they have an idea of the other party’s financial worth. Very few people are interested in suing people from whom they can’t get compensation. So, finding ways to keep your property ownership hidden from the public can help protect you and your assets.
It may be easy to achieve this with movable property, but it’s not so easy if you’ve invested in real estate. Real estate ownership records in Georgia are public and accessible to anyone, which may make it difficult to remain anonymous as a property owner. However, there are ways to legally conceal your property ownership, whether real or personal, from the public eye.
Keep reading to learn more about property privacy techniques and how an estate planning attorney can help shield your assets from public scrutiny.
Is Hiding Property Ownership Legal?
While there are ways to protect your property from public scrutiny, you need to be sure that you’re doing it correctly and for the right reasons. For instance, it is illegal in Georgia to hide property from a creditor to avoid paying back a loan.
According to the Uniform Voidable Transaction Act in Title 18 of the Georgia Code, any transfer of property made to hinder, defraud or delay a creditor’s action to recover a debt can be voided by the court on behalf of the creditor. The following acts can be interpreted as an intention to defraud or hinder a creditor:
Removing or concealing assets
Transferring assets shortly before or shortly after taking a loan
Transferring all or almost all properties soon after a creditor threatens to sue
Retaining possession or control of the property after a supposed transfer
Transferring the property to an insider
Thus the law prohibits hiding property ownership to avoid liability under a loan agreement.
You could also get into trouble if you hide or transfer property shortly before or during a divorce or bankruptcy or to get illegal tax benefits. Such property transfers could amount to fraudulent conveyance, which could affect the transaction’s validity and, in most cases, attract legal penalties to you.
In the above scenarios, you can see that the timing of the attempt to hide the assets is a critical factor in determining whether or not fraud can be implied. This shows that taking steps to protect your assets, keeping your property ownership private, or estate planning, in general, should be done proactively and not when you’re already facing possible property loss or liability.
How Can You Keep Property Ownership Private (Legally)?
There are several legal techniques that you can apply to keep your ownership of property private. They include the following:
Establishing a Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Limited liability companies are a way to make your asset ownership private. LLCs are separate legal entities from their owners and can be used by property owners to keep their identities private. An LLC can engage in real estate transactions and own investment property.
If you establish an LLC to help keep your property ownership from public records, you can either buy a new property in the company’s name or transfer your existing investment properties to the company. You can also use LLCs to manage your rental property privately without the knowledge of your tenants.
You can set up as many LLCs as you want to fulfill your purposes. However, you’ll need to consult an attorney to determine whether a company’s membership forms part of your state’s public record. If the answer is affirmative, finding out who owns a company is easy, so your identity may not remain secret for too long. An attorney can help you determine whether an LLC suits your circumstances and provide possible alternatives if necessary.
Private trusts, such as land trusts, can also be used to hide ownership of property. You can establish a trust and transfer your property rights to the trust, which the trustee would manage as per your wishes. However, you’ll need to appoint a trusted person as a trustee to ensure that the terms of the trust are complied with.
To protect your identity, consider converting some of your assets to liquid cash and saving them in retirement bank accounts for the future.
Financial documents like bank statements are private and are not open to public scrutiny. In this case, the bank alone is aware of your assets. Since the banker-customer relationship is primarily fiduciary, the bank has a duty to keep your records confidential unless disclosure is required under the law.
How an Atlanta Planning Attorney Can Help Make Your Property Ownership Private
When you’re trying to avoid public scrutiny of your property ownership, it is essential that you do it right. The wrong step could amount to illegal or fraudulent concealment of property, so having professional legal guidance can help you avoid such costly mistakes.
If the privacy of your property ownership is a concern, an estate planning attorney can help you come up with a personalized estate plan and Atlanta asset protection strategies depending on the nature and value of your estate. Experienced estate planning lawyers would be able to determine the specific technique or combination of techniques that would give you the highest levels of protection possible.
They can also ensure that the steps taken to hide your identity do not offend any laws and meet the individual statutory requirements for their validity. For instance, you’d likely need a lawyer to help you establish an LLC if that is your tool of choice or prepare a valid trust agreement.
More importantly, estate planning attorneys are proactive and can anticipate possible issues that could threaten your ownership of property. They help you protect your assets by developing a solid risk management plan on your behalf, even before any problem arises. Thus consulting a lawyer for help on issues of property privacy and asset protection is always a good idea.
If you have further questions about maintaining anonymity over ownership of Georgia real property or need a probate lawyer, we’d be glad to help at The Law Office of Paul Black.
Contact us to schedule a consultation as soon as possible to get your answers.