The Huber case: do self-settled asset protection trusts work? (1 of 3).

June 13, 2013, by

alaska map.jpgDon Huber was a land developer from Tacoma who used leverage (borrowing) to enhance his returns. His son got an MBA and came into the business. What had been a great business went terribly wrong in 2008. The land wasn't developing but the loans remained.

In September of 2008, Don and his son arranged with Seattle counsel to form a "self-settled" asset protection trust to be governed by the law of the State of Alaska. These arrangements are described in our November 29, 2012 blog, linked here. Don was both the person establishing the trust, and its primary beneficiary. Alaska law says that one who does this can keep the trust assets out of the reach of creditors, if the transfers to it aren't "fraudulent conveyances" to evade present or threatened claims.

Don put a lot of things into the trust, including land projects, several shopping centers, and his and his daughter's residences. Most of these were put into Alaska LLCs or corporations first, then the Alaska entities were contributed to the trust. Don's son, another person, and Alaska USA Trust Company were the trustees to hold the assets and make distributions to Don as they saw fit for his benefit. For a time they were distributing $14,500 a month to help with Don's expenses and the education of family members.

Many of Don's land projects went into foreclosure, and banks got big judgments against him. In February of 2011, Don filed for bankruptcy, asserting that the Alaska trust was unavailable to satisfy claims against him although it continued to make substantial distributions to him. The bankruptcy Trustee, an attorney (not Don's) appointed by the Bankruptcy Court to assemble Don's assets to pay creditors as best could be done, questioned the validity of the Alaska trust.