Effective asset protection planning requires anticipation of what creditors’ attorneys may and will do to collect their judgments. The best way to learn creditor attorney strategy is to ask them. My social relationships with creditor attorneys are very valuable to me professionally, as well as personally, because they give me the opportunity to learn about their methods.
I recently had a lunch with one of Orlando’s preeminent collection lawyers. We discussed collection practices and asset protection strategy, and I found some of his comments to be interesting. I asked him what was the most effective debt collection tool. His answer was, without hesitation: bank account garnishments. Bank garnishments, he explained, was the only way to capture a significant amount of a debtor’s cash quickly and without lengthy legal proceedings. Bank accounts are where the money is. Bank garnishments strike a surprise blow to debtors which freeze their funds and usually force them to settle the remaining debt.
I next asked him whether wage garnishments were effective assuming the debtor is not head of household. He said that garnishments were not a good collection tool. First, the creditor collects small amounts of money each month toward the judgment, and his clients are not interested in long-term payback. Next, he explained, that wage garnishments usually force debtors to file bankruptcy because debtors will not work for an indeterminate future for the benefit of creditors. Wage garnishment, he felt, usually backfire against his clients’ debt collection.
Many of my clients spend much time asking about charging liens a creditor could get against their LLC which operates their small business. This creditor attorney has not sought a single charging lien for many years. He cannot recall the last time he used a charging lien. From the creditor perspective, he explained, charging liens are ineffective against an LLC business managed by the debtor or the debtor’s family. The attorney explained that charging lien collection against a closely held LLC depends upon the honesty of the debtor; the creditor collects money only if the debtor voluntarily reports an LLC distribution subject to the lien. He found that most debtor LLC owners circumvent the charging lien with salary and loans, and that neither he nor his clients are able to monitor effectively the Debtor LLC distribution practices. It seems that an LLC properly formed and clear of fraudulent transfer challenges is practically a very effective asset protection too.