Due to the recent decision of the Florida Supreme Court, many single-member limited liability company owners have been left confused and upset. The Ohmstead decision expressly eliminated most of the asset protection benefits that single-member LLCs were thought to have. Creditors of the member can use all available remedies to recover their debt, not just the charging lien that was thought to be the sole remedy. Now it may be possible for a creditor to force the sale of LLC assets and seize all management decision-making.
This decision has sparked new ideas on how to protect debtors who are the owner in a single-member LLC. According to one academic, adding an unrelated business partner as a new member could offer protection. This would require the new member receive some consideration such as a share of the profits so that the reorganization would not be a fraudulent transfer. Also, a second option would be to reorganize the LLC in another state with more desirable LLC protections. Some LLC owners may consider converting to limited partnerships to offer a stronger protection that might be available under the current law. The Florida legislature is expected to address this issue in the future to clarify the standing of multimember LLC’s
While the decision did not deal with multi-member LLC’s, there is language in the opinion that has raised concern with many around the state over the issue of whether a multi-member LLC offers asset protection in Florida. It seems that it might be possible for a creditor to pierce a LLC and foreclosure on the shares, which may not be possible with a limited partnership interest. Given the current uncertainty with asset protection and LLC’s in Florida you should have your operating agreements reviewed to make sure that they are updated to include provisions that would not permit a creditor who has taken an interest in the LLC to vote or participate in the business decisions, is not guaranteed any distributions, and any moneys that would be provided to the original members who have creditor problems are use to purchase annuities for that member or are paid in the form of wages if that individual’s wages are protected from creditors
Although these options may seem like quick fixes, they are complex and are not guaranteed solutions to the problem because it will take years for appellate courts approve them. If you have any questions about how this decision may affect you, contact a Florida Asset Protection Attorney for help.