Proving once again that trust situs matters, South Dakota (for the 2nd year in a row) is ranked the top dynasty trust state while Delaware slips again this year to the seventh position behind Ohio and Wyoming.  The rankings chart, an annual ranking of dynasty trust states from across the country published by Nevada attorney Steve Oshins, is an excellent resource for advisors and clients because of the methodical and objective approach to evaluating the factors that impact the viability of dynasty trusts states such as whether they have an asset protection statute and how effective it is in comparison to other states.  In addition, the chart considers state taxation on trusts and whether the state has directed trust and decanting statutes. 

The chart accentuates the vital importance of considering alternative trust jurisdictions in the wealth and trust planning process to ensure that clients are availing themselves of the most progressive trust laws in the country, particularly in the area of dynasty trust formation, which continues to be a very hot topic.

An important factor to consider relative to whether a dynasty trust state is the best for clients, not considered in Steve Oshins’ chart, is privacy. States have different privacy provisions protecting information contained in a trust from becoming public. Pennsylvania has no privacy provision and, after three (3) years, trust information can become public in Delaware. South Dakota is the only  dynasty trust state that has a total seal on trust information forever. Clearly, this is also an important factor to consider when determining where to place a trust in the wealth planning process.

Steve Oshins’ chart can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via our contact page.

13-10-01 2013 Oshins Dynasty_Trust_Rankings




Nevada, South Dakota, Alaska, and Ohio comprise the top tier trust jurisdictions for asset protection trusts, according to the 4th Annual Domestic Asset Protection Trust State Rankings Chart (see below). The Rankings Chart, an annual ranking of Asset Protection Statutes from across the country published by Nevada attorney Steve Oshins, is an excellent resource for advisors and clients because of the methodical and objective approach to evaluating the factors that impact the effectiveness of a particular state’s asset protection statute such as fraudulent conveyance (look back provision), state taxation on trusts, and if there is an exception for child support and alimony claims.

The chart accentuates the vital importance of considering alternative trust jurisdictions in the wealth and trust planning process to ensure that clients are availing themselves of the most progressive trust laws in the country, particularly in the area of asset protection, which continues to be a very hot topic.

An important factor to consider when looking at asset protection statute states, not considered in Oshin’s chart, is privacy. States have different privacy provisions protecting information contained in a trust from becoming public. Nevada has no privacy provision and, after three (3) years, trust information can become public in Delaware. South Dakota is the only asset protection state that has a total seal on trust information forever. Clearly, this is also an important factor to consider when determining where to place an asset protection trust.

4th Annual DAPT

Download chart in PDF

1080-Background3This five minute video considers top tier U.S. trust jurisdictions and discusses the objective factors that render some states better than others in the wealth planning process.  The discussion also considers the quickly evolving trust arena with a  particular emphasis on asset protection trusts and privacy issues.

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Directed Trusts, only available in a handful of states across the country including South Dakota, are drastically changing the trust world while putting control back into the hands of settlors, beneficiaries, and their advisors.  Below is an excellent piece appearing in Trust and Estates magazine discussing the concept of a Directed Trust and its huge impact on the fiduciary industry across the country.

Emerging Directed Trust Company Model

Joseph F. McDonald, III
Trusts & Estates

Source Article:

Offering unbundled services provides great flexibility and lower fees for families and their advisors.

Much has been written about modern “multi-participant trust” governance structures (sometimes called “open-architecture trust designs”) and evolving principles of state trust law related to “directed trusts.” The directed trust model threatens to undermine the market share and pricing power of traditional bundled trustee service firms.

The emergence in several progressive trust jurisdictions of upstart nondepository public directed trust companies (DTCs) is a disruptive force to be reckoned with. Those trust service providers who recognize and are willing to exploit these opportunities can offer the unbundled services, a la carte pricing and inexpensive access to the progressive states’ trust laws that are increasingly coveted in the growing national trust marketplace. Traditional providers of bundled trustee services with unwieldy cost structures and embedded cultures will be challenged to adjust their business models to compete in this new environment. Here are some observations on the opportunities and perils that the DTC model presents to professional fiduciaries, consumers of trust services and their estate-planning advisors.

Defining “Directed Trust”

A traditional bundled professional trustee performs all fiduciary functions for the trusts under its management. These include exercising the important labor-intensive and liability-sensitive discretionary investment management and distribution responsibilities, performing all ministerial administrative responsibilities necessary to implement those exercises of discretion, preparing fiduciary accountings and trust tax returns and otherwise administering its trusts in accordance with the governing instruments and applicable state trust law.

Traditional Bank Trust Departments

A large bank trust department designed to deliver bundled trust services requires elaborately structured risk management policies and procedures to allow the bank’s personnel to perform the multiple fiduciary responsibilities inherent in the role and limit the bank’s exposure for claims of breach of fiduciary duty. The directors, officers and support personnel are compensated commensurate with their experience, expertise and level of responsibility. The department’s policy manual describes the roles and responsibilities of various committees of directors and officers, including a trust committee, investment committee, special asset committee, discretionary action committee, audit committee and various subcommittees. Day-to-day trust portfolio management is typically handled by highly compensated investment officers, some of whom possess the certified financial analyst credential. Distributions and operations are the responsibility of trust operations officers, trust administration officers and, in many cases, client-facing relationship managers and marketing officers.

The classic regulated corporate trustee collects from each of its trusts annual fees of between 50 and 120 basis points, depending on the value of the trust’s principal. These fees have historically been adequate to cover the trust department’s extensive overhead and provide a comfortable and relatively stable profit margin to supplement the bank’s more cyclical net interest and other operating income from its commercial and retail banking operations. Before directed trusts became popular, the high costs of operating in a regulated industry with significant barriers to entry for alternative business models gave the incumbent bundled service providers significant pricing power and created an almost infinitely elastic demand for their services.

Modern DTC

Unlike this comprehensive trust service model, a directed trust arrangement involves a co-trustee or a non-trustee fiduciary, typically a “trust protector” or “trust advisor,” empowered to direct the trustee holding legal title to the trust assets to execute the empowered party’s directions concerning the critical discretionary investment or trust distribution powers, or both. The independent DTC is relegated to implementing those directions and often performing other administrative functions such as recordkeeping, maintaining principal and income accounts and preparing and filing trust tax returns. This is why DTCs functioning in a completely directed trustee capacity are often referred to as “administrative trustees.”

DTCs can operate lean and mean in inexpensive, highly utilitarian, Class B office space, with more manageable risk management policies and procedures, less high-priced management personnel, no investment professionals and an appropriate number of administrative personnel to handle their accounts. As nondepository institutions typically operating under hospitable state regulatory regimes, they can benefit from lower capitalization and bonding requirements and less onerous supervision, reducing operating overhead. DTCs generally charge a relatively modest annual fee for services commensurate with the DTC’s correspondingly lower levels of risk, responsibility and overhead. This allows any other co-fiduciaries handling more labor-intensive, higher risk investment and distribution functions to profitably charge a reasonable fee for their services. Thus, the total fees paid to the DTC and the other compensated participants can be comparable (in some cases lower) to the single annual fee paid to a traditional bundled provider.

Demographic Trends

Several demographic, industry and legal trends have coalesced to drive the increasing demand for directed trusts and the DTCs that serve them.

Unlike in previous generations, when wealthy families were generally more conservative investors and looked to the institutional stability of banks as their trustee and investment advisor/manager of choice, today’s affluent prefer a specialized approach that gives them the flexibility to choose their own investment professionals. They increasingly reject the notion that a jack-of-all-trades can be a master of any. That’s particularly the case in the modern world of complex dynasty trust administration involving layers of discretionary distribution powers and wide-open trust investment standards. The new directed trust structures offer the promise of the best of both worlds. On one hand, the settlor and trust beneficiaries have the comfort and stability of a local, state-regulated and adequately capitalized financial institution to serve as administrative trustee, hold legal title to the trust assets and charge a reasonable fee for those services. On the other hand, in a prudent investor environment, they avail themselves of the broader benefits of being able to choose from a wide-open universe of non-trustee distribution directors and investment specialists with extensive research capabilities, contrasting investment styles and access to alternative investment classes. These governance structures can also accommodate those families looking to play a direct role in investment management and distribution decision making through committees that can empower settlors and beneficiaries to control or influence all but “tax sensitive” discretionary powers.

Six Progressive States

The evolution of the legal and regulatory environments in all but a handful of progressive trust states hasn’t, however, kept pace with the increasing demand for these open-architecture governance structures. The few states that have taken up the directed trust gauntlet have recognized that creating a hospitable legal, regulatory and tax environment will foster the development of a thriving trust services industry within their borders and provide all of the incidental economic development benefits of white collar jobs, tax revenues and ancillary service providers. The progressive trust states that are on this short list are: Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming. Each of the six has, to one degree or another, built sufficient legal infrastructure in the three critical areas necessary to sustain a competitive local directed trust industry.

These progressive states recognize that the popularity of long-term (even perpetual) trusts as wealth management, asset protection and wealth transfer tax avoidance structures, combined with tremendous concentrations of fungible financial wealth, liberal choice and conflict-of-law principles, as well as the relaxation of interstate banking restrictions, have created a national marketplace for directed trust services. A family living in a regressive trust state needn’t move to a progressive state to secure the benefits of a directed trust established and administered in that jurisdiction. They need only enter into a trust agreement with a DTC domiciled in a preferred state that will own and administer the trust’s intangible personal property.

Directed Trustee Statues

Each of the progressive states has codified directed trust principles that meet three critical requirements. First, they specifically recognize the classes of non-trustee participants that can perform trustee functions. Most of the six progressive states’ statutes identify “trust advisors” and “trust protectors” to serve in these roles: Although it’s not necessary, some jurisdictions helpfully provide an exclusive or a non-exclusive listing of the powers and responsibilities that each of them may assume. Second, these statutes provide as a default rule that each empowered party, whether a trustee or non-trustee, performing a trust function will do so in a fiduciary capacity with direct accountability to the trust beneficiaries and submission to the jurisdiction of the preferred state’s local courts. Finally, each of the six states’ laws protects a disempowered directed fiduciary from liability for following the directions of the empowered party, except to the extent that the directed fiduciary, negligently or in bad faith, fails to execute the directions. Most of them satisfy this third and most critical requirement by defining a directed trustee as an “excluded fiduciary” with no duties to: (1) question whether the empowered party is acting within the scope of that party’s authority, (2) intervene to prevent or redress a breach, or (3) warn the beneficiaries that any given direction exceeds the empowered party’s authority or otherwise constitutes a breach.

Being governed by a clear and comprehensive directed trust statute will enable a DTC domiciled in a progressive trust state to price the administrative services it provides without a fiduciary surcharge premium or to cover the costs of exercising due diligence responsibilities on the empowered party’s directions that would be appropriate in the absence of the “excluded fiduciary” exoneration provision. Moreover, it will send a clear signal to any court, in surcharge litigation initiated against the DTC, that the state’s legislature has declared as a matter of public policy that the DTC will be liable only for bad faith or negligent execution. No such assurances can be given to a DTC operating in a state with no directed trust legislation or a statute that doesn’t satisfy each of the three critical elements described above.

For example, the directed trust statute in a state adopting the Model Uniform Trust Code (UTC) won’t protect a DTC operating in that state from liability for executing directions if the DTC’s administrative personnel knew that doing so would constitute a “material breach” of the empowered party’s fiduciary duties or would be “manifestly contrary to the terms of the trust,” These vague standards leave the door open wide for a disgruntled beneficiary or a results-oriented court to mine the deep pockets of the DTC if, for example, it implements a direction that results in loss or damage to the trust principal. A DTC operating in a state without bulletproof directed trust laws would face diminished prospects for a successful appeal of a surcharge order based on the deferential standard of appellate review for questions of fact and mixed questions of law and fact. Even some non-UTC states with statutes that attempt to go beyond the UTC protections could leave a DTC vulnerable: Reaching that result would have been difficult for any court applying the statute of a progressive trust state that clearly negates any such duty to warn on the part of a directed trustee.

Trust Modification Opportunities

Each of the six preferred trust states offer liberal opportunities for non-resident situs seekers to “retrofit” their existing irrevocable trusts’ governance structures from the bundled trusts to the directed trust format and change their principal place of administration from a regressive trust state by facilitating the appointment of a directed trustee in the preferred jurisdiction. These opportunities include (without limitation) decanting, accessible trust modification standards (particularly related to administrative provisions), nonjudicial settlement agreements and virtual representation.

Lighter Touch Level of Oversight

All of the progressive states also have enacted special banking act provisions for the chartering and supervision of public nondepository public DTCs or limited purpose trust companies that can’t accept deposits or make loans. These relaxed requirements recognize that a lighter touch regulatory regime is appropriate, given the diminished risk of public harm and receivership costs in the event of the failure or misconduct of a nondepository institution, when compared to the trust department of a traditional state or federally regulated institution that also takes deposits and makes loans. The relaxed requirements are generally reflected in lower initial capital requirements, lesser fidelity and liquidation insurance and bonding requirements, more liberal options for investing statutory capital, less frequent examinations and relaxed (or no) requirements for resident directors and bricks and mortar in the chartering state or some combination of those attributes.

Among the six states, Delaware’s regulatory regime is regarded as cutting the least slack for their limited purpose trust companies and South Dakota is regarded as having the most accessible and least costly chartering and supervision requirements.

Regulator Sophistication

Implicit in each of the progressive state’s trust and banking codes is the legislature’s policy value judgment about how hospitable it wishes to be as a domicile of choice for nondepository DTCs and trusts that might migrate from other states. Some of these six states have erected higher regulatory barriers to entry and operation for DTCs than others. They’ve done so presumably because they wish to keep out nefarious, undercapitalized providers without solid backing or well considered business plans and discourage “rent-a-charter” interlopers who plan to conduct all or a majority of their business outside the state.

In reviewing a DTC’s charter application and examining existing DTCs, each state’s bank commissioner will take his cues from the tenor of that state’s banking code’s chartering and supervision requirements applicable to DTCs. The regulator has a mandate to be conscientious in his review of a bank or trust company candidate’s charter application and the banking department’s examination and enforcement activities to guard against consumer harm, maintain the integrity of the state’s banking and trust industry and preserve the regulator’s limited resources available to cover the costs of receivership and liquidation. A banking commission operating under a special light touch statutory regime applicable to DTCs must balance that prophylactic purpose with the legislature’s mandate that the regulator not be so heavy handed as to discourage responsible charter applicant s and impose unmanageable regulatory burdens and compliance costs on any given DTC with a sustainable business plan and operating in a responsible fashion. To do so would prevent the progressive state’s directed trust providers from charging competitive fees and attracting sufficient business to compete on a national scale, thereby frustrating the policy goal of the progressive state’s trust and banking law reforms.

Some banking departments in the preferred trust jurisdiction s have done a better job than others in striking a reasonable balance among these competing considerations. All of them, however, remain competitive relative to the more regressive trust law jurisdictions that have one-size-fits-all , full-bore regulatory regimes applicable to both depository and nondepository institutions.

State Trust Income Tax Environment

Finally, many trust situs-seekers and migrators reside or maintain their non-grantor trusts’ current situs in states that impose high trust tax rates on accumulated income and capital gains. They may be seeking a state income tax shelter if: (1) the laws defining their home or trust situs states’ trust tax jurisdiction are drawn narrowly enough to allow them to achieve that result, and (2) the destination state won’t tax the trust after the move.

Here again, all of the six progressive states aren’t created equally. Some don’t tax trust income and capital gains at all. Others will prorate the trust’s taxable income based on the percentage of beneficiaries who live in the destination state, exempting from state taxation all trusts having exclusively non-resident beneficiaries.

Disruptive Business Model

The process of creative disruption has transformed many an industry as traditional business models are forced to adapt to upstarts that offer a compelling alternative value proposition. For families and their advisors who are willing to do their homework on prospective new DTCs and the open-architecture trust governance alternatives available to them in the progressive trust jurisdictions, as well as for traditional providers willing to consider serving in directed trustee roles, the new unbundled trust governance mode l offers the promise of vastly greater choice and many attractive possible permutations that can deliver best-in-class trust service across all trustee functions at a reasonable overall cost.


upcoming-eventsDavid Warren, President and CEO of Bridgeford Trust Company, has two upcoming speaking engagements in the month of April. Check out the details below!

Event: Family Law Institute 2013 (PA Bar Institute)
Presentation Title: Use of Trusts in Pre-Nuptials; Addressing Business Succession and Estate Planning
Date: Monday, April 22, 2013 from 8:30am-4:00pm
Location: Various locations (live via simulcast) Read more

Proving once again that trust situs (jurisdiction) matters, South Dakota becomes a top choice for asset protection trusts in the nation according to industry experts.  This is an excellent piece discussing asset protection trusts and the importance of selecting the proper trust jurisdiction in the wealth and trust planning process.

Trust Wars: Experts Say New Law Makes South Dakota Asset Protection Trusts A Top Choice

Scott Martin (Senior Eeditor, The Trust Advisor)

Source Article:

Setting strict limits on the rights of divorcing spouses turns the race between leading jurisdictions into a photo finish. Will other states stretch to close the gap?

Sioux Falls is now a center of the national trust industry. Here’s why.

The latest salvo in the trust wars is now ready for signing and top estate planners throughout the nation are already betting on how it will shift the industry landscape.

At first glance, SD House Bill 1056 amounts to 6,800 words of boilerplate under the innocuous title “An Act To Revise Various Trust and Trust Company Provisions.”

But buried in the text is a little bombshell that’s got email boxes around the asset protection community lighting up from Delaware to Nevada and beyond.

“This keeps South Dakota ahead of the curve and provides the changes to keep South Dakota the top place in the nation to situs trusts or form trust companies,” says Sioux Falls attorney Terry Prendergast.

A tiny gap just closed

Now that Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed the bill into law, SD 1056 will formally eliminate divorcing spouses’ right to assets that have already gone into South Dakota domestic asset protection trusts starting on July 1.

The list of creditor exceptions in the state now includes the ex-spouse and kids only to the extent to which the trust creator already owes them money – otherwise, the special carve-out that once gave them the power to make future claims is gone.

In effect, unless there’s already an outstanding alimony, child support or property division issue on the table, a trust administrated out of South Dakota is now as secure from an ex-spouse as anyone else.

It seems like a minor loophole to close, but in the cutthroat game of which state can tempt the most assets from across their borders, the tiniest margins separate the leaders from the losers.

All the major trust jurisdictions support a similar menu of asset protection trusts, dynastic trusts, directed trusts and other specialized trusts. And all offer more or less equally favorable tax treatment.

As a result, when wealthy families set up a trust, their choice of where to create it and who to work with resolves to situational details and, really, intangibles.

Previously, the lack of a spousal exception was Nevada’s unique ace in the hole.

South Dakota, Delaware, Alaska and the rest all let the divorce court pierce their trusts’ protective shield under various circumstances. Nevada didn’t.

Now noted jurisdiction watchdog – and Nevada-based attorney – Steve Oshins himself says the gap separating his state from the rest has narrowed.

“Not quite, but much, much closer,” he says.

Will other jurisdictions strike back?

South Dakota’s elite trust task force worked for months to earn that recognition as part of their ongoing efforts to keep the state at or near the top.

“The trust laws are business friendly and trust friendly and are updated yearly,” says Paul Christen of the Christen Group, who sits on the council.

“I think that’s one reason many consider us No. 1 and business is booming.”

The new rule may not be a perfect match for Nevada’s blanket protection from spousal claims, but as Jocelyn Margolin Borowsky of Delaware-oriented firm Duane Morris has argued, this was always more of a theoretical distinction anyway.

“From a practical standpoint, we’ve never come across a situation in which a client was proposing to create a DAPT with the objective of shirking a child support obligation,” she points out.

“Clients who have the means to create a DAPT simply do not wish to be incarcerated when the trustee of a DAPT could make a distribution in payment of a child support obligation.”

In fact, Borowsky has flat-out stated that overcoming the spousal exception “is not important to clients.”

Trust industry leaders in jurisdictions like New Hampshire have echoed those sentiments to me in the past in an effort to cast their states as family-friendly places where ex-wives and kids can’t be denied their share of the wealth.

Meanwhile, other states have developed their own approaches to family obligations.

Delaware, for example, has taken care to define “spouse” to the trust beneficiary’s advantage. Alaska will only force trustees to pay child support if the beneficiary is 30 days late on his payments.

And several states, including most recently Ohio, prevent divorced spouses from any access to assets placed in trust before the marriage, arguing that wealth was never marital property to begin with.

They’ll have to beat whatever new developments are cooking up in Sioux Falls and Pierre.

Pete Randazzo of Citi Trust says the South Dakota task force has the full support of Governor Daugaard and is confident that more modifications to the statutes will help the state “secure its number one position” as “best trust jurisdiction in the U.S.”

Don’t confuse the sizzle with the steak

Ultimately, the impact of South Dakota’s move may be theoretical at best for most clients, but that’s exactly the kind of fine distinction that separates truly high-end asset protection lawyers – and the jurisdictions they favor — from the rest.

For the everyday run of wealthy family looking to protect their assets from most creditors as fast as possible, more basic considerations come first, like the length of time that assets have to “season” in trust before being protected.

On that basis, Nevada and South Dakota are neck and neck with a two-year window between when the check clears and when the protection kicks in.

Delaware, Alaska, New Hampshire and other states lag with a four-year seasoning period, which may be too long for your clients to hold their breath before they can relax knowing that nuisance lawsuits – or serious ones, for that matter – can’t get into their trust funds.

If that matters, it’s practically a two-horse race now between Nevada and South Dakota unless your clients are already scheming to default on their spousal obligations.

And in that case, you’ve probably got much bigger things on your mind.

Trust officers on the ground aren’t letting that bother them in any event.

“We feel South Dakota is truly the leader in innovation when it comes to trust and estate planning laws, rules, regulations and techniques,” says Jeb Clarkson, senior trust officer at Pioneer Bank & Trust.


Similar to the decision as to where to incorporate a new business entity, is has been said that the decision as to where to place a trust is as important as the decision to create one.

Below are two excellent pieces produced by the Federal Reserve that discuss the reasons why South Dakota has ascended to become one of the best trust jurisdictions in the nation.  In addition, attached is a great companion piece that methodically and objectively compares  trust jurisdictions across the country. Read more

On January 6-9, David Warren (President and CEO of Bridgeford Trust Company) will be speaking at the 33rd Annual Prime Global Tax Conference in Newport Coast, CA. David will be speaking on “ESTATE TAX UPDATE: DOES TRUST SITUS MATTER?”

This fun and high-intensity gathering is full of networking, roundtables, and informational sessions on a variety of current tax issues and practices. Highlights include a “Best Tax Planning Ideas” contest and session, regular updates on federal and international tax laws, and some of the best golf outings you’ll find anywhere. Read more

upcoming-eventsWe are proud to announce two upcoming speaking engagements for David Warren (President and CEO of Bridgeford Trust Company)!

Title: Does Trust Situs Matter?
Date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 from 12 to 1 p.m.
Place: Berks County Bar Association – Second Floor, 544-546 Court Street,Reading
Signup: Download the signup form here

Details: The Legal Support Staff Association of Berks County is pleased to co-sponsor with the Berks County Bar Association an educational seminar entitled, “Does Trust Situs Matter?” Read more