I recently rec'd very large amount of money. I have 2 step children that live with us. I took out a 2 million dollar liability umbrella in addition to car insurance. If the 20 y/o would crash, and the car is in her name completely, am i liable? If the 16 y/o crashes, and my name is not on car, just her moms, am I liable? Am I liable at all since I am not their birth parent and I have not legally adopted them. Please advise. Thank you
Family Law Attorney
Yes you could be. Do you have permissive use?
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Having a small amount of insurance or large amount doesn't make you liable for anything. You would not be liable for your stepchildren who have their own cars.
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Family Law Attorney
The amount of insurance you carry is not what determines liabililty. However, your liability exposure is very small, at best, and it sounds as if you are adequately covered. It sounds like the car insurance is in your name, or a houshold group, and that opens you to ownership/liability. If you are married to the 16 year olds mother, then the vehicle the 16 year old drives is community property (name on title irrelevant) and with everyone living in the same home, there is some tenuous liability exposure. Talk to an asset protection attorney about a living trust to better protect your funds, and investments that cannot be garnished.
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Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
No you would not be liable for your step children. Make sure your insurance covers permissive use before let them borrow your vehicles.
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I assume your net worth is above the 500k benchmark. From your question, it shows that you are concerned about liability issues. As you know that in our legal system it is relatively easy to sue someone. The most common estate planning tools as Family Trusts, Revocable Living Trusts will not protect you from lawsuits.
You definitely need to sit down with an attorney with expertise in asset protection planning.
Douglass Lodmell is the nations #1 Asset Protection attorney and has clients in all 50 states, protecting over $4 Billion in client assets. Answers given by him in this forum do not establish an attorney-client relation. He advises to seek a specialized attorney in the area of your interest for legal representation.
The short answer to your question is: it depends.
Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 41.440 codified the common law family purpose doctrine and states as follows:
Any liability imposed upon a wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister or other immediate member of a family arising out of his or her driving and operating a motor vehicle upon a highway with the permission, express or implied, of such owner is hereby imposed upon the owner of the motor vehicle, and such owner shall be jointly and severally liable with his or her wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, bother, sister or other immediate member of family for any damages proximately resulting from such negligence or willful misconduct, and such negligent or willful misconduct shall be imputed to the owner of the motor vehicle for all purposed of civil damages.
The Nevada Supreme Court in Arata v. Faubion, 161 P.3d 244, 123 Nev. 19 (2007) held that a step-parent could be "an immediate member of family" and remanded the case for a determination by the District Court.
I agree with attorney Whitbeck that your best course of action is to protect the assets you do have. I would also keep the insurance levels you do have. It's better to be overinsured than underinsured in the event of a catastrophic injury.