Fort Worth lawyer pens guide to asset protectionMarch 31, 2014
“Take care of yourself financially – no one else will,” said Fort Worth attorney Henry W. Simon Jr.
Simon, the son and grandson of lawyers and a recognized bankruptcy practitioner, has dedicated his career to helping businesses and individuals create and maintain strong financial foundations.
His bankruptcy practice at the law firm of Barlow Garsek & Simon LLP – the firm dates to 1978 – includes representation of significant constituencies in Chapter 11 reorganization cases. Simon has more than 40 years of experience in business law, including more than 30 years in the negotiation of debt-restructuring workouts.
His firm has successfully represented clients in some of the most high-profile and memorable bankruptcy cases in the last three decades, including Furr’s Inc. and Braniff International Airways. In the Braniff case, Simon represented two classes of bondholders, negotiating the assumption of bond obligations by sister airlines. His efforts resulted in payment of 100 cents on the dollar for his bondholder clients.
One of his biggest tasks was as debtor’s counsel to Placid Oil Co., which was owned by three of H.L. Hunt’s first-family siblings trusts. Simon restructured $825 million in secured debt and $1.2 billion aggregate debt through a five-year plan.
After that, he served as co-counsel to Nelson Bunker, son of legendary Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, in his successful personal bankruptcy.
Simon says bankruptcy can be avoided if people protect their assets before a crisis. To help individuals who have something they don’t want to lose but think an asset protection plan – a strategy for guarding a person’s wealth – is too complicated and costly to pursue, Simon has put together a guidebook on what an APP is and how to go about making the right one.
Saving Your Assets: Asset Protection for Texans and Maybe Everyone Else from Brown Books Publishing Group of Dallas is an easy-to-read, often funny, simple fact book about the APP process.
Simon’s goal is to demonstrate the need for asset protection and to steer people in the best direction to design the right plan for them.
“The message of this book is that a properly designed legal framework, completed before financial disaster, is your best defense against ever needing to consider bankruptcy,” Simon writes.
The book is based on Simon’s years of legal expertise and includes sample agreements and advice on how to choose a lawyer and how to estimate legal costs.
“What lawyers really like most is to give people meaningful and valuable advice,” Simon writes. “At least that’s what I like.”
What inspired you to write this book?
I’m not sure it was “inspiration,” but I have practiced law in the field of debtor/creditor relationships for many years and have formed the strong opinion that asset protection plans, if adopted before the occurrence of an unfortunate financial event, are often the sole reason that one individual survives financially while another, who did not establish such a plan, loses everything.
Why did you mention only Texas in the title?
I focus on Texas for two reasons: I live here and have practiced law here for many years, and, accordingly, am familiar with Texas law in these areas; and Texas law is very favorable to asset protection if you utilize the Texas laws well and carefully. It is something of a model for other states regarding homestead and related issues, so we can give what we believe to be very useful advice.
What does the term “asset protection” mean?
“Asset protection” means the deliberate ordering of the forms and practices of one’s economic life to protect one’s economic values, i.e. “assets,” if a financial calamity occurs.
Who needs an asset protection plan and when should one be made?
We think the general test begins with individuals who hold assets of a value greater than $500,000 in addition to their home, cars and federally protected Individual Retirement Accounts, pensions and the like. At that level, asset protection should be considered, although not necessarily implemented.
What are some different methods for protecting assets?
They range from very simple, such as paying off the debt on your Texas homestead, to very complicated, utilizing trusts, family limited partnerships and limited liability companies. As the book explains, we do not recommend foreign countries as the place of “domicile” for asset protection implementation.
Is bankruptcy ever an option?
Bankruptcy is a federal right and must be considered in the aftermath of a financial reversal, but we think that an asset protection plan, adopted before the financial reversal, will lead to a better result.