We read so much about sophisticated asset protection planning strategies….offshore trusts, domestic asset protection trusts, limited liability company charging orders and so forth. Just read my blog, I’m as guilty as the next about discussing these items. But sometimes the issue facing our client is very mundane and in your face–namely, how do I protect the items in my home. Here we are talking about household items, keepsakes, memorabilia, jewelry, art and the like. Few people know the rules. Still fewer advise their clients properly. Let’s say you are at the stage where all planning to shift ownership has been completed and for whatever reason title to the tangible property in the home remains in the debtor. What do you tell your client when the collection man commeth? In Michigan us asset protection planners have a great answer. We should be telling our clients not to let the Sheriff in. Even with a proper Writ of Execution, in Michigan according to our Supreme Court, an officer seeking a judgment debtor’s property for purpose of making a levy has no right to force an entrance through the outer door to the debtor’s home. However, once he is lawfully admitted to the home he can use reasonable force to get through the inner doors and take what property is subject to the levy. SO MAKE SURE YOUR DEBTOR CLIENT UNDERSTANDS–DO NOT VOLUNTARILY LET THE SHERIFF IN. IF HE FORCES HIS WAY IN IT WILL BE UNLAWFUL AND HE WILL NEED TO RETURN YOUR GOODS.
My good friend and a great collection lawyer, Gary Nitzkin (Michigan Collection Lawyer Blawg), sometimes shares his secrets with me. He will send the Sheriff to the home of an unknowing debtor who will let the Sheriff in. Once inside the Sheriff begins gathering the debtor’s prized personal possessions. Before long the Sheriff is on the phone to Gary explaining that the debtor is ready to pay. But this need not happen if you-DON’T LET THE SHERIFF IN!!