IntroductionAsset protection specialists are not so specialAsset protection seems to be a hot topic for discussion amongst investors at the moment. As a result of the recent asset boom most investors find themselves considerably richer than they used to be. Perhaps it is human nature that only when we finally have some wealth does our focus shifts from how to make money to how to keep it. However, for some investors their increased wealth also brings with it an increased fear of “losing it all”. Unfortunately a new mini-industry of so-called Asset Protection “Consultants” or “Specialists” has sprung up to feed upon that fear. These Asset Protection Consultants seem, almost uniformly, to use tabloid-style emails and marketing letters with lots of phrases like: “stop scumbags legally stealing your assets”, “right now some gold-digging litigant could be planning to take you to the cleaners”, “how would it affect your future, your children’s future and your marriage” and other alarmist phrases, with numerous exclamation marks, highlighting and italics, to create a sense of urgency. Don’t get me wrong, asset protection is an important issue for investors. However, the approach adopted by these asset protection consultants troubles me. Getting your asset protection right, requires a calm, informed and structured analysis of your risks and the available protective steps you can take. Instead, the asset protection consultant’s marketing campaigns unfairly use emotive language to prey on people’s fear of not being able to provide for their families after losing their assets. Certainly views about marketing methods can legitimately differ. No doubt these consultants are using the “hard sell” strategy because it works for them. If that was my only criticism of this “industry” then it would simply be no worse than many other advertising campaigns. But I have more fundamental concerns about these asset protection consultants. My questions are: First, what professional training, qualifications and experience do they have, to be able to give advice about asset protection? Second, what value do asset protection consultants add, for their fee or commission? Now I’m not being precious or elitist here. There are many investors who have a very good understanding of how trusts and other asset protection methods operate compared with the average accountant or lawyer. However, there are three key differences between seeking advice about asset protection from your accountant or lawyer compared with one of these consultants. Firstly, there are minimum academic qualifications and ongoing learning requirements imposed on those professions – so your lawyer or accountant should know what they’re doing, particularly if they profess expertise in the area of asset structuring. Further, for lawyers to be allowed to describe themselves as accredited specialists in an area of law, takes even more training and experience. Whilst some asset protection consultants may have relevant qualifications or experience, there is no minimum standard of training or professional body which supervises them. Some of these so-called specialists have no more than a couple of days training at an investment guru’s seminar. Secondly, despite the numerous (and often quite amusing) jokes about greedy lawyers, lawyers are required to operate in an ethical manner and can lose their right to work if they fail to do so. Asset protection consultants are not a regulated professional body. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, both accountants and lawyers are required by law to carry insurance, so if they do get it wrong, there is an insurance fund you can make a claim against to try to recover your loss. There is no requirement for an asset protection consultant to hold professional indemnity insurance.