Not Your Grandmother's Trust: Women with Assets

Why a Prenuptial Agreement does not protect your assets


Zuraw Financial Advisors is a financial planning and investment management firm based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The practice was founded more than a decade ago by Ann Zuraw, Certified Financial Planner™, Chartered Financial Analyst®, and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® with more than 30 years of experience in financial planning, portfolio management, family businesses, and stock analysis. Inspired by her upbringing and experiences, the firm maintains its commitment to serving families, couples, and women.


Bridgeford Trust Co-Founder, President, and CEO, David Warren recently sat down with Ann Zuraw, President of Zuraw Financial Advisors, to produce a 6-part video series entitled “Not Your Grandmother’s Trust: Women with Assets”.

AZ: Hello. Welcome. I’m Ann Zuraw. I’m President of Zuraw Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor with SEC in Greensboro, North Carolina. And, we’re here today to talk about why you as a woman should consider a trust in South Dakota. And, we have David Warren of Bridgeford Trust here. David, you want to introduce yourself?

DW: Absolutely. It’s great to be here with you, Ann. I am David Warren, Co-founder of Bridgeford Trust Company which is an independent trust company with trust powers in South Dakota. I’m very excited about this topic and looking to collaborate with you on how to best serve women within the trust space and beyond.

AZ: I thought I’d start today with a fun fact about South Dakota. I lived there for a while, so I actually visited Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home, which is in De Smet, South Dakota. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. But, I just thought I’d mention her as, early on, late 1800’s, as a woman with assets, Laura probably needed a trust out of South Dakota. But it was a little early then. So, in one of the topics that I see, again, I work a lot with women and women, whether they’re 20 or 30 or 40 or 70. And a woman with assets, how do you keep control over your assets and have them for your benefit yet not have them not within your control? And, so, one of the usual ways was to have a prenuptial agreement. But, it’s not so good when you’re about to get married and somebody says, “Would you mind signing this agreement, Honey?” So, what’s your thoughts on that, David?

DW: I love this topic. It’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time looking at over the years. The idea of control is really what makes South Dakota so special and powerful, and I think, particularly in this space for women the control aspect of what now you can do that you couldn’t have done 15 or 20 years ago, makes your question particularly sort of compelling and relevant. The idea of an asset protection trust, a domestic asset protection trust as we talked a lot about in the media for years, is still a relatively new animal, so to speak, here in the United States. And before the ability to have a domestic asset protection trust, the only real way a woman would welcome control and protect her assets before marriage and after marriage, more importantly, or if there were a subsequent divorce, was through a prenuptial agreement. Which, as you know, in some states, are not easy to enforce. There’s a lot of rigor around making sure that formalities are upheld and, more importantly, there’s a disclosure requirement to the spouse, which is often, to the point you were making earlier, it’s a hard conversation to have with somebody you’re supposed to be in love with, “Hey, everything’s great but, oh, by the way, please sign this piece of paper.” The domestic asset protection trust, it’s really only available in a couple states, South Dakota being one of them. Nevada and Alaska and a few others have the same capability. But, South Dakota is considered one of the strongest and most powerful primarily because of its two-year look-back period. But, how it works in the context of a prenuptial agreement is that we have the ability to create a domestic asset protection trust. The woman of wealth can do that as a self-settled trust, still retain a tremendous amount of control over the trust through using the directive trust structure, but still be able to receive distributions. All the income from the trust can be distributed to her as well as the principal, which is controlled by distributions through a distribution plan. The point is, that trust can be created in a way, without ever having to have a conversation with the intended spouse. In fact, there is no timing requirement as long as it’s signed and funded before marriage, even the day before. That’s not going to be an issue. And it’s nothing that it could ever even be discoverable, which means that it’s not even something that has to be revealed, the existence of it, prior to marriage. So, it’s a very powerful tool.

AZ: Well, we just thought we’d talk briefly today, so we appreciate you guys joining us. Thank you. Or, “Y’all,” I should say. I’m from the South. And, just to really focus on women with assets. And, again, how you define assets is another subject for another day. But, again, don’t hesitate to call me. I’m Ann Zuraw, azuraw@zurawfinancialadvisors.com, or, David…

DW: Don’t be afraid to give us a call. You’ll see at the end all of our contact information. But, we’d love to work with you in any capacity we can help.

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