To incorporate or just get good insurance?

One of my friends purchased an apartment complex and he put the property in his name. He informed it is better to have good insurance than to have the property incorporated.

Obviously it is better to be well insured and incorporated but my main concern is from a tax/paperwork stand point.

Any thoughts on this?

The best choice is to do both. But you have identified an important theme that many people forget – it’s much better to proactively stay away from risk and carry lots of insurance than to have to test your structure to shield liability. When I was in Charleston, South Carolina last year, I noticed a large crest and motto painted on the wall of a 18-century mansion. I ask the tour guide what it said, and the translation was “anticipation is superior to vengeance”. I think what that meant was that you are always much better off staying out of trouble than trying to work your way out of trouble. And obviously, it worked well for the 18th century shipowner that owned the house.

Both incorporating (or creating an LLC) and insuring are the standard practice. In addition to the insurance, having an LLC or Corp generally prevents any claims that exceed insurance limits from claiming your assets that are outside the Corp/LLC. For example, if John and Carol own “ABC MHP, LLC” and carry a $1 milllion general liability insurance limit, and then lose a $2 million lawsuit due to a death caused by faulty wiring in a park owned home, the most they would lose would be their policy limit and all the assets of the LLC. They would not lose any assets held outside of their LLC such as bank accounts, securities, other real estate owned, etc. And because of this, the party suing ABC MHP, LLC would be much more inclined to accept the $1 million in insurance proceeds as a final settlement and waive any claim to the other $1 million.

On the other hand, if John and Carol had owned ABC Mobile Home Park in their personal name and the exact same loss happened, they would have jeopardized every asset they own, even those outside of ABC Mobile Home Park. Creating an LLC or Corp for this asset protection purpose, and many others, is a good investment in most all cases. It’s a rare event when I’ve ever recommended that anyone own any type of real estate or business in their personal name.

A quick COST SAVING NOTE on setting up an LLC - If only you and or your spouse are going to own the LLC, you likely don’t need the expense of creating an “Operating Agreement.” That is usually the biggest part of any charge a lawyer will bill you for when creating an LLC. In most cases, you simply need to file the Certificate of Formation with the state Secretary of State (usually about a $300 fee) and get a tax i.d. # from the IRS (you can do that online for about $20 in less than ten minutes).