• 165 Passaic Avenue, Suite 411, Fairfield, NJ 07004
  • Monday-Friday 9am - 5:30pm
  • 973-439-7200
February 1, 2024

A Hybrid DAPT May Offer the Asset Protection You Need

Asset protection is a vital part of estate planning. Chances are you want to pass on as much of your wealth to family and friends as possible. To do this, you may need to shield your assets from frivolous creditors’ claims and lawsuits.

One option available to you as you plan your estate is to establish a domestic asset protection trust (DAPT).

What is a DAPT?

A DAPT is an irrevocable self-settled trust that empowers an independent trustee to manage and distribute trust assets to beneficiaries. This unique structure enables the trust's creator (known as the "settlor" or "trustor") to enjoy the advantages of both asset protection from external creditors and the beneficial use of trust assets. 

Domestic asset protection trusts can offer creditor protection even if you’re a trust beneficiary, but there are risks involved. Bear in mind that DAPTs are relatively untested, so there’s some uncertainty over their ability to repel creditors’ claims.

Not all states currently recognize the DAPT. Those that do include: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to live in one of those states to qualify; what matters most is where the asset is located. So you can explore the possibility even if your state doesn’t currently participate.

A hybrid DAPT in action

A “hybrid DAPT” may offer the best option to the person planning their estate and to the beneficiary. In this arrangement, you’re not initially named as a beneficiary of the trust, which virtually eliminates the risk described above. But if you need access to the funds down the road, the trustee or trust protector can add you as a beneficiary, converting the trust into a DAPT.

A hybrid domestic asset protection trust is initially set up as a third-party trust, meaning it benefits your spouse and children or other family members, but not you. Because you’re not named as a beneficiary, the trust isn’t considered a self-settled trust, so it avoids the uncertainty associated with regular DAPTs.

There’s little doubt that a properly structured third-party trust avoids creditors’ claims. If, however, you need access to the trust assets in the future, the trustee or trust protector has the authority to add additional beneficiaries, including you. If that happens, the hybrid account is converted into a regular DAPT subject to the risks mentioned above.

Alternatives to a hybrid DAPT

Before forming a hybrid domestic asset protection trust, you should determine whether you need such a trust at all. The most effective asset protection strategy is to place assets beyond the grasp of creditors by transferring them to your spouse, children, or other family members, either outright or in a trust, without retaining any personal control.

If the transfer isn’t designed to defraud known creditors, your creditors won’t be able to reach the assets. And even though you’ve given up control, you’ll have indirect access to the assets through your spouse or children, provided your relationship with them remains in good standing.

Questions about hybrid DAPTs? Contact Smolin.

The hybrid domestic asset protection trust can add flexibility while offering significant asset protection. It also minimizes the risks associated with DAPTs, while retaining your ability to convert to one should the need arise. 

Consult with your accountant today to assess whether a hybrid DAPT is right for you.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram