Q: I own four rental properties and I have been told to incorporate each home or at least put all four properties under one corporate umbrella.
Is this a good idea? And, can you recommend an attorney to help me do this? I also want to modify my current lease contract so it protects me from 99.9 percent of all liability.
A: Unfortunately, I do not recommend individual attorneys, brokers, bankers or lenders. However, you can contact your local bar association and ask to speak to the head of the real estate committee. (I’m not quite sure what they call it where you live, but it’s a group of real estate attorneys who work together on various issues. All bar associations have them.)
If you speak to that person and explain what you’re trying to do, you’ll probably get a qualified referral or two.
As for protecting yourself, I’m not sure it’s possible to protect your assets 99.9 percent. That seems a bit unrealistic to me, especially in today’s litigious world. One real estate attorney I know has his client set up a new company for each real estate investment. That will help limit your liability. But, it means lots of extra paperwork and tax returns.
You’ll have to decide what it is worth to limit your liability going forward. A smart attorney working in conjunction with a super-smart tax person (either attorney or accountant) should be part of your team.
Feb. 13, 2004.