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The recent civil unrest in Kyrgyzstan is as violent and severe as any in recent months. Even though it is one of those countries I had hardly ever heard of, some interesting things occurred in the upheaval there. I am as ignorant as anyone when it comes to the politics and policies of this central Asian state, but one of the reported reasons why Kyrgyzstanians revolted was because of rampant favoritism of close friends and family by the president, excluding almost all others from the most lucrative economic activities. Not only was the president chased out of the country, but the houses of several of his family members were burned down by rioters. They forgot to keep their address private.
So what does rioting and burning of a few houses in such a remote part of the world have to do with me? The lesson to draw is not just that nepotism makes some people mad. More importantly for us, when it comes to your own privacy and security, it doesn’t matter that you yourself are not a public figure, your family ties to a public figure might make you a good secondary target for unwanted attention and intrusion. You need to take the proper steps to secure your privacy in case their “fame” spills over onto you.
Property Ownership Is Public Record
Property ownership in the US and many other countries is a matter of public record. That means that anyone who wants to know what property you own, or if someone wants to know who owns any particular parcel, can just look it up. In many cases, the amount of any mortgages on a property are publicly known as well. This is good for would be grifters, makers of Hollywood star maps and Kyrgyzstani rioters, but not for you. Many people who are in the public eye and who have gobs of money for a legal team are already aware of this and protect themselves with the appropriate measures. So, what can you do if you are related to a local or national politician, a school board member, a disc jockey, a judge or even Judge Reinhold?
Keep Your Address Private
The first option is to become a renter. Tenants names are not public record and so, as long as you can find a trustworthy landlord, you should be alright. If you want to have more say in the type of roofing material which will be installed next fall, renting might not be an option. In that case, hold title to your property with a trust. The trust will be the public record owner of the property, you will simply be the beneficiary and the beneficiary is not public record. Don’t forget to be creative with the name of the trust. If Tony Hawk wanted to keep anyone from finding his house, he should definitely have avoided holding title in the name of the Tony and Lhotse Hawk family trust. Another option is to use an LLC to own property. Although this by itself is not as private as a trust, a structure combining trusts and business entities can be excellent privacy protection. You should consult with your attorney to form a trust or a business entity to hold property.
If you, or even your family member, have a very public professional position which may draw unwanted attention to your private family life, take appropriate steps to avoid public disclosure of your home address with the use of a ghost address. Renting, using a trust or a business entity to hold title to your residence can keep unwanted attention from being directed at your private life or that of your family. This can be especially important for vacation homes that you do not want to create unjust tax liability in a place that is not your tax free state home. Hopefully your family is never run out of town by violent rioters, but at least if they are, you can get the book How To Vanish and keep your marshmallows in the bag because there will be no extra bonfires going on at your house.
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