6 Tips to Limit Personal Exposure to Business Lawsuits
These are the things every small business owner should know about protecting personal assets from lawsuits, creditors and business liability. Being self-employed and owning your own business comes with inherent risk. Even big businesses land in financial trouble and sometimes fail. So, here we discuss how to limit your personal exposure to a business lawsuit. We also discuss how a corporation can protect you from a business lawsuit. A sole proprietorship or general partnership do not offer protection.
Most of the time small business owners keep busy with work, life, family. They generally have just enough time to keep it all together. Many never fully understanding the potential liability they expose their assets to in a business day. Moreover, many are unaware of how asset protection plans can limit that risk.
Planning for Entrepreneurs
Small business owners need to be especially prudent about protecting themselves against liability both from the business and daily life in today’s litigious society. Small business owners with less than $1 million of business revenue and a net worth of $500,000 can create simple asset protection plans quickly and easily. They can accomplish this and from anywhere between $2,500 and $20,000.
On the other hand, according to workforce.com, the average cost of an employment lawsuit is $75,000 to $125,000; escalating from $175,000 to $250,000 for a jury trial. Those with asset protection strategies in place have effectively removed the pot of gold from the end of the rainbow. Therefore, notifying your opponent of such, you increase the likelihood of hearing “case dismissed” or reaching a quick settlement. Thus, the sooner you start asset protection planning the stronger it is and less expensive it will be to defend yourself in the event of a lawsuit.
How to Limit Personal Exposure to Business Lawsuits
Here are some things you can to do limit your liability.
1. Incorporate Your Business
Most business owners are aware of the limited liability they can enjoy when they incorporate or form an LLC. However to maximize asset protection a few points they should scrutinize. Form your business, fund it, operate it and maintain it with asset protection in mind. This is your first layer in limiting personal exposure to your business.
2. Inventory Your assets
Regularly inventory your debts and assets, including second homes, investments, retirement accounts, corporate stock, etc. These are important assets that a creditor can take away during litigation.
3. Know Your Exemptions
You may have protected some of your assets from creditors in holdings such as your primary residence (in some states), retirement account, pension or life insurance. When state or federal laws provide sufficient protection from creditors your asset protection plan should focus on fraud claims, divorce and tort liability (negligence).
4. Do Not Personally Guarantee
Do not personally guarantee business contracts and loans – By signing a personal guarantee you essentially disregard the limited liability of your corporate entity. In the event of failure to pay or perform on a contract, you are on the hook. Find a financial institution or vendor who does not require a personal guarantee in order to work with you. If you must guarantee a business agreement then apply limitations for a specific time. Alternatively, you can pre-determine an asset in the contract that they can use as collateral.
5. Sign as a Corporate Executive
Sign contracts, John Smith, President of ABC Corp. not John Smith. Even if you have a corporation, if you execute a contract personally, the law will likely consider it a personal guarantee. When executing contracts always ensure you are acting on behalf of the business. You can also limit contract liability with verbiage in the agreement that caps or disallows specific damages.
6. Realize Insurance is Limited
Yes, this is a line of defense for liability, business, property, automotive, etc. The problem is that the coverage is limited. That is, someone can always sue you for more. Plus, insurance companies write a broad range of exceptions in their policies so that they can squirm out of paying when you need it the most. For example, most policies do not cover sexual harassment or fraud, whether you are falsely accused or not.
You can limit personal exposure to business lawsuits. So, use the above strategies. Moreover, to have the most peace of mind, employ an asset protection strategy. Talk to a professional. Call the number on this page or fill out the inquiry form.