The recent economic downturn has caused creditor problems for many wealthy Americans who never dreamed they would be in this kind of situation. A front page article in the July 9, 2010 New York Times reported that one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of $1 million is seriously delinquent. Foreclosures are occurring at shocking rates in affluent areas. One of several examples given by the New York Times is that the sheriff in Cook County, Illinois is increasingly in demand to evict foreclosed owners in the upscale suburbs to the north and west of the city — like Wilmette, LaGrange and Glencoe.

In the past, most affluent Americans have paid little attention to asset protection. In better times — when the real estate market and the stock market seemed to go nowhere but up — it was difficult for many affluent Americans to imagine they would ever face serious creditor problems. Those days are gone. Focusing on the downside has now become a critical part of the planning process for the wealthy. Part of that focus should include a review of how all your accounts are structured and titled to be sure you have not missed opportunities to protect certain assets from creditors. As I have said many times before: the best time for that planning is before you have any financial problems — and not once you are facing issues with creditors.