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Robert J. Mintz
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Dangerous Assets

An example of a Dangerous Asset is an apartment building. The liability potential of apartment houses is particularly high. Although liability insurance coverage is usually available, the amount of coverage may not be sufficient. A fire in a densely populated building may cause severe injury or death to many tenants. The potential liability for such a tragedy could easily reach into the millions of dollars, exceeding by far the amount of your insurance coverage.

Apartment owners can also be held responsible for the acts of the resident managers. If the resident manager engages in race or sex discrimination in renting to tenants, or is guilty of sexual harassment, this liability may be imputed to you as the owner of the property. Acts such as these may not be covered under your standard insurance coverage.

If this asset is transferred to the same Family Limited Partnership that holds all of your other assets, that partnership, as the owner of the property, will face a high degree of lawsuit exposure and all of your assets will again be at risk.

Instead, the best approach for a Dangerous Asset such as an apartment building is to transfer that property to its own separate entity. Generally the Limited Liability Company is the proper way to hold Dangerous Assets. Since no individual member of an LLC can be sued for an LLC related obligation, the liability associated with the Dangerous Asset can be contained and insulated in the LLC. If a number of Dangerous Assets are owned, each should be placed in a separate entity. Once we formed thirty-two different LLCs for a client, each holding one apartment building. If a disaster occurred, only the LLC which owned that property would be sued. The other properties and family assets were safely insulated and shielded from liability under this arrangement.

Some types of commercial real estate may also constitute Dangerous Assets. Office buildings, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, or any other building where many people work or gather, all have the potential to produce stratospheric liability in the event of some type of disaster.

A physician client owned a medical office building in his Professional Corporation. His medical practice and the property were both Dangerous Assets and a liability produced by either would jeopardize the other. For example, a problem arising from the building would produce a claim against the equipment, accounts receivable, and cash in the corporation. The office building should have been separated from the medical practice by holding it in a separate LLC. Dangerous Assets must be kept separate from each other asset. We will discuss details about the use and operation of the LLC.

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