Author Archive

How Land Trusts Can Benefit You

Posted on October 1, 2014 by

The land trust is an agreement that allows real property to be held privately for a beneficiary. That way, the beneficiary, whether it be you or your entity, does not show up on the title in the public records.

Follow me here. Say you have $1 million insurance coverage for liability. You hit an attorney in the cross-walk with your car. Will he settle for the insurance limits or will he sue for more? Or what if your insurance company denies your claim for some reason? How much will the suit be?  Well, that usually depends on how deep he thinks your pockets are. If you own property in your own name, the lawyer suing you will easily find your house and any other properties you own in the public records. This could easily become a $3 million suit.

Before you even know you will be sued, the opposing attorney could have the sheriff park in front of your house, knock on your door while you are eating dinner and hand you your lawsuit in front of all your family and the neighbors!

But, if you have your property in a land trust, beneficial ownership is hidden. Your land trust is not filed in the public records. Your ownership stays private. No one knows who the beneficiary is but you. Read More→

Why an IRA-Owned LLC or Trust?

Posted on January 24, 2014 by

I am often asked if an IRA-owned LLC or trust makes sense. Well, like a lot of things, it depends. If your normal custodial account is working well for you, there may be little reason to add these structures. But there are situations for which you may want to consider them as covered below.


Promoters push the IRA owned entities as a way for you to have checkbook control over your IRA funds. While it is an arguable point as to whether you should be the manager or trustee of your IRA-owned LLC or trust (we will postpone that discussion until the class next month), there are other reasons to use these entities. For example,

Privacy – These IRA-owned entities will keep individual IRA account holder’s names off the public records. This is true even for low liability paper investments such as contracts, notes, mortgages and options as well as real property ownership. Read More→

Often I have investors ask me what entity should hold their personal residences. Many want to use at least the land trust or Family Limited Partnership. But by using any of these, you could be losing tax and financial benefits. So, how do you protect it?

Your personal residence is protected by being mortgaged 100%. Don’t worry, I am not suggesting that you have loans out totaling the full value of your residence, but have a home equity line up to 90-100% of the value. If you get the line from a first tier lender, the mortgage document at the court house will typically not specify that it is an equity line. It will appear that that amount is a loan on the property. Of course, you don’t have to draw on the line if you don’t want or need to, but having it available will provide you financial comfort as well.

Why not move the personal residence into an entity? Well, there are three reasons: Read More→

Rick is a single person with no immediate family. After hearing a discussion I did on stacking Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), he wanted to know what he could do as a single person. At the time he owned seven properties. Three had almost no equity. One had over $60,000 equity and the other three varied from $25,000 to $30,000 in equity.

Rick was fully exposed to the liabilities created by ownership as well as management. He indicated he was actively seeking more property. His objective was to acquire roughly 12 properties in the near future. He did not want to risk all he had worked for in one frivolous lawsuit.

First, he needed to insulate himself from the management liability. Management seems to be even a stronger lightening rod that property ownership. By separating management from ownership, any payment for management by the owner becomes earned income. To provide a liability shield and mitigate the tax issues, an S corporation can be used. Plus a corporation provides additional tax-advantaged fringe benefits every entrepreneur should consider. In certain situations a C corporation could be used, but the S corporation suited Rick the best. Read More→

Sally and Julie grew up together and have decided to invest in real estate. They both have regular jobs, but figure they can find a property, fix it up and rent it out in their spare time. They find a good property which takes most of their savings as a down payment. They figure that over the next few months, they can get the repairs done with money earned on their regular jobs.

They decide that with contractors on the property and tenants once it is fixed, they need to have a liability shield to protect them personally. They set up a Limited Liability Company and purchase the house in it.

Sally and Julie are so excited and anxious to get the rehab done that they neglect to have an organizational meeting nor do they have any subsequent meetings. They figure it is no big deal since they are close friends and talk every day anyway. They also want to save money and decide not to set up a bank account for the LLC. Julie agrees to use her account to run all the expenses through with Sally putting in half the costs. Julie then agrees to put the utilities in her name.

They also failed to get a Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the IRS. If they had opened a bank account, they would at least have gotten the TIN since banks would require it. They figured they would just work out the expenses later. Read More→

Major Zane Purdy’s life crumbled overnight…

Maj. Zane Purdy was making over $100,000 a year employed by defense contracting company, General Dynamics, when his identity was stolen and sold to an identity theft and tax fraud ring. Now, Purdy makes $7.25 an hour at a Krystal to support his wife and two children.   

In 18 years of service, Purdy had never had an issue with his top secret security clearance. But once thieves stole his identity, his credit was trashed. Bad credit automatically flags someone as a national security risk and his security clearance was suspended. To add insult to injury, he has also been blocked from active duty and General Dynamics was forced to fire him. 

Adding to his plight, he has tax liens levied against his property and the IRS is claiming he owes them more than $10,000 in back taxes. 

You may want to believe he was careless with his information, maybe on an Internet smut site or volunteering personal information to a phone scammer.  Nope. 

His identity thief was a data-entry clerk at a nearby hospital!  Read More→

With the real estate markets slowing in many areas of the country, we are seeing a resurgence of owner carryback financing. Most of you are aware of the basics of such financing, but you may not have been exposed to some of the more creative approaches.

Let’s look at Jack who wants to move away from day-to-day management of his properties as he is involved in another business venture that is taking more of his time. He could just sell off his properties, pay the taxes and re-invest the proceeds in an investment that doesn’t require the management oversight.

One house Jack purchased some time ago for $100,000 is now worth $150,000. After concessions, realty fee and closing costs, Jack nets $140,000. And after the $80,000 mortgage is paid off, he has $60,000.

But hold on, federal and state taxes have to be paid. Between depreciation recapture and capital gains, taxes total about $12,000. So, Jack is left with $48,000 to invest. Read More→


There are numerous possibilities for the name given to a trust. Such names are often chosen to reflect the primary function of the trust: Education Trust; Wealth Replacement Trust; Charitable Remainder Trust; Spendthrift Dynasty Trust, etc.

Since names are assigned to trusts the public can get the wrong impression. It is often assumed that a named trust is like any other consumer good, such as the name ‘car’ or ‘truck’. A person wants to buy, say, a car but not a truck. They want a Spendthrift, but not an Education Trust. Actually all trusts are just trusts. The primary thing that differentiates them are clauses written into the trusts. For example, a single clause will turn an education trust into a spendthrift education trust.

The point is not to let names become confusing. The fundamentals of trusts are simple to comprehend. First, all trusts are either inter vivos or Testamentary. Inter vivos trusts are set up while the grantor is alive and are often referred to as a ‘living trust’. The testamentary trust, on the other hand, is set up after the person’s death by authority written in the deceased’s will. All trusts will be either an inter vivos or a testamentary trust. Read More→

Trusts have been used as an entity to hold assets, such as real estate for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Obviously, it’s old stuff. But, with each generation’s trials and tribulations, trusts evolve to meet new challenges.

High Taxes and aggressive litigation are today’s motivators. Tax risks range from income tax to draconian death taxes that consume up to 55% of the assets a person leaves behind. Trusts are often used along with more modern adaptations of other old entities, such as partnership aberrations, to include family limited partnerships and limited liability companies. The quest is to keep what you have accumulated and to have some extended control of it, even after death.

A perfect example of using ingenuity to keep one’s assets away from the grips of the tax man was a trust established by Maria Cristofani in 1984. Maria established a trust and transferred to it real estate with a value of $70,000. The primary beneficiaries were her two children and, as contingent beneficiaries, 5 grandchildren should the two primary beneficiaries die within 120 days of Maria. All was fine until Maria died and the IRS audited her estate tax return. Read More→

It is impossible to outline a single set of guidelines for due diligence, but here is a basic checklist, in no particular order, to begin your due diligence with a deal presented by another investor (referred to as offeror here). No money or commitment should change hands until you have satisfied at least this preliminary checklist. After all, you spent a significant period of time making your hard-earned money; don’t throw it away in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. In many cases with experienced investors who should know better.

  1. How well do you know the person offering you the deal? What is their reputation? Get names of other investors the offeror has done business with and talk to those along with other investors you know about their experiences or knowledge of this person. If you don’t know those investors, find out about them as well. Put more stock in the experiences of those investors who have been dealing with the offeror for years rather than a short period of time and have done several completed deals with them. What were their deals? Did they work out as expected? Did they check out what the offeror said? Did they receive the proper paperwork? Don’t rely solely on offeror’s references. A recent study showed that 40% to 60% of resumes have false references. You need to have independent references as well. For example, check with the president of a REIA local to where the offeror lives. Ask others in investment groups or classes where you met the offeror if they know him and his ethics. You can’t get too many references.
  2. Ask the offeror about their experience and history. Ask what you will find if you run a credit-check or background check. You ask tenants and borrowers for this information, why wouldn’t you with someone with whom you are thinking about investing. Then run their credit, civil and criminal background checks. I once did due diligence on a fellow where everything checked out until I ran a background check for $40 to find he was in bankruptcy. Check the Secretary of State’s website for any entities the offeror may control or be associated. Then Google search those entities as well. What do you find? Read More→

WRAP Loan Technique

Posted on May 1, 2013 by

When you sell a property, a wrap will assure you retain control of a loan you have on the property. This may be a loan you got using the property as collateral or a subject-to loan when you purchased the property.

After the sale, the buyer pays you the full payment on the wrap and you pay the underlying mortgage payment. I suggest that you make the payment to the first mortgage holder automatically each month. Don’t wait around until your buyer pays you. Yeah, I know, properly constructed wrap documents do not require you to make the payments if the buyer doesn’t pay you.

But think about it. That underlying loan is in your name and it is your credit is on the line. Or it is in the name of someone who trusted you to make the payments when you took the property subject-to. In that case their credit could be damaged.

In either case, by keeping it current, you keep the lender from scrutinizing the loan and avoid late fees and foreclosure. When your buyer is in default, you want to control the collection process without the underlying mortgage holder interfering. Read More→


Why are you investing in real estate? Do you have a plan?

Every business that seeks to grow and achieve success has a detailed business plan. Any real estate entrepreneur that expects cash flow and asset growth in any reasonable time period should have a detailed plan as well.

The first question is where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years? Just saying you want to be rich is not an acceptable answer. “Rich” is a nebulous word and one we will remove from our vocabulary for this discussion.

We will replace it with two concepts that we can define, Cash Flow and Asset Building. Cash flow generates current dollars available to spend now. While cash flow is required to put food on the table and a roof over your head, it is also taxed in the year you receive it. Even with the new tax laws, it can be taxed up to 60% between federal, state and self-employment taxes. Once you think about it, it makes no sense to earn any more than you need to live comfortably, not spartanly or exorbitantly. Read More→