It's getting more difficult for business owners to figure out how to protect their personal assets against financial claims by creditors and litigants. Kenneth Brier, a partner at the Boston law firm Powers & Hall, recommends that business owners legally shelter as many personal assets as possible:

Hold real estate and other property in "tenancy by the entirety" (a joint tenancy between spouses that receives favored levels of creditor protection). "In some states, such as Texas and Florida, you can get even greater levels of creditor protection by declaring a homestead exemption in your real estate deeds," says Brier.

Set up a qualified pension or profit-sharing plan. "So long as your plan is for all employees, creditors or litigants will not be able to get their hands on any of your savings in the plans."

Consider investment-oriented insurance policies. "In some states, including Massachusetts and Florida, personal assets that are invested in universal life and similar policies are also safe."