Monday, October 19, 2009

Heemstra Trial Update - No Asset Protection Here

A little bit slow on my part in updating my prior post on the Heemstra case, but the Judge in a harshly worded ruling of September 18, 2009 ordered Heemstra to pay $750,000 in punitive damages, another $204,000 in other damages and ordered the sale of land owned by Heemstra and his wife. The judge found that the Heemstras engaged in a "complex shell game" to try and hide and move their assets to prevent Lyon's widow from recovering on her $5.68 million judgment. William Petroski of the Des Moines Register also covered the ruling in an article on the Des Moines Register.

The judge found that the family fraudulently transferred their assets (even I called this one) to various family members and entities to produce the perception of a "penniless" defendant in order to avoid payment of the wrongful death judgment. The judgment goes beyond just Rodney Heemstra, and also included certain damages against Heemstra's son, an irrevocable trust, his sister, a limited liability partnership and his mother.

Fraudulent transfer statutes can, obviously, produce some harsh sanctions and may even include those involved in the transaction, even if they don't personally benefit. Asset protection is not the same thing as fraudulent transfer. Properly completed, asset protection may protect one's assets from judgment.

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