A recent article showcased a raging, high-profile Houston divorce involving an 80-year-old multi-billionaire (who co-founded the high-frequency trading firm Quantlab Financial) and his 66-year-old Wife of 31 years. Husband left Wife for his 20-something Russian mistress. He is accused of having funneled his fortune into complex limited liability companies and trusts, in order to eliminate Wife’s marital interests, all the while remaining in full control. One Houston divorce trial attorney called these structures “akin to a semi-legal form of money laundering.” As part of his particularly fervent efforts against Wife, Husband evicted her from her entity-owned home, before Christmas in 2017, and subsequently sued her for return of a yellow diamond necklace he had given her, which was also owned by a trust!
Many of the Bosarge assets are allegedly held in South Dakota trusts where, apparently, no aggrieved spouse has ever been able to access the assets in a South Dakota Court since the start of the trust industry 30 years ago. Trusts in South Dakota can last forever and have no state-imposed income taxes for non-residents. After two years a South Dakota trust is immune from creditor claims. They are confidential and even trust beneficiaries are not entitled to be notified of trust changes even where assets are decanted, moved to another trust of which they are not beneficiary!
As you may recall in our case of Gibson v. Gibson, 801 S.E.2d 40 (Ga. 2017), the State Supreme Court legitimated the use of trusts to insulate property acquired during a marriage from equitable division. It seems only a matter of time before singularly-untouchable South Dakota trusts become fixtures of asset protection for the uber-wealthy Georgia spouses as well.