How are family trusts treated in family law proceedings?

How are family trusts treated in family law proceedings?

On Monday 3 May, Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the world's richest couples, shocked the world with the announcement that their 27-year marriage was coming to an end. Of concern was the impact of the couple's separation on their many philanthropic trusts and foundations.

More and more, there is an increasing trend toward creating a discretionary family trust for the purpose of asset protection and tax minimisation. It is important to understand how family trusts may be treated in family law proceedings.

In family law matters in Australia, the court identifies all property interests of the parties in the relationship. This extends to interests held by either party in a family trust. In many cases, a trust will be property of the marriage, where the parties hold the roles of appointor, trustee and beneficiary. Parties need to be clear as to who has control of a trust, and a cautious approach should be adopted where parties to the relationship are mere beneficiaries of the trust.

Whilst in many cases a family trust will not be contentious, we recommend obtaining legal advice in any separation where trust structures may be an issue.

If you or someone you know is going through a separation involving complex property structures, we recommend you seek legal advice.

Lander & Rogers' family lawyers have extensive experience advising individuals on matters relating to dividing property and other assets. Please contact a member of our Family & Relationship Law team for more information on the topics raised in this article.

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