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近年来,家庭办公室的概念变得越来越普及。简单说,家庭办公室就是一个高资产的家族(或者是几个家族)同时雇佣一群专业人士(包括税务、法律、理财甚至慈善等方面),专门为他们进行财富管理和财产保护。建立家庭信托(family trust)可以有效地进行税务和遗产规划,所以在家庭办公室中是一个非常常用,甚至是不可或缺的工具。但在离婚案件中,它对您地保护又有多少呢?以下由康健律师为您分析2018年BC省最高法院的一个注明案例。

M.C.V. v F.V., 2018 BCSC 96这个案例中,夫妻双方在2003年结婚的。丈夫从之前的婚姻中带入了一个房产,并在2005年建立了一个“自由裁量信托”(discretionary trust),把该房产纳入信托中。值得注意的是,丈夫本人是信托的建立人,也同时是信托两个执行人(trustee)中的一个(另一个是一名律师),而且是信托的受益人(beneficiary)之一。这里的法律名词比较多,但简单来说:丈夫虽然通过信托把房子从自己的名下转移到了信托名下,但这只是一个形式上的传换,实际上他仍然对信托有绝对的控制权,可以随时把房子再转移给自己。

夫妻之后分离,并在法庭上针对如何对该处房产进行定义和如何分配,产生了争议。丈夫认为因为房产已经归信托所有,他所拥有的只不过是信托赋予他的、抽象的一份利益而已;而妻子则要求法庭捅破信托这层窗户纸,直接将房子本身的婚内升值部分作为共同财产分配(因为房子是丈夫婚前财产,所以她无论如何也只能分割升值部分)。这两者的区别是,前者是一个抽象的概念,而且很难量化,因为需要参考很多信托本身的条文;而后者则非常简单。

法庭在分析案件时,首先把BC省Family Law Act中所有涉及到信托的条款都列举出来:

[83]        The FLA refers to trust interests in four provisions: ss. 85(1)(f), 85(1)(e), 84(3) and 84(2)(f).

   (i)        Subsection 85(1)(f): Under this provision, a spouse’s beneficial interest in property held in a discretionary trust where the spouse is not the settlor and did not make any contribution to the trust is excluded from family property. Notably, there is no statutory definition of what qualifies as a “discretionary trust”. The FLA does not specify whether such trusts must be purely discretionary or whether it applies to trusts with both discretionary and fixed interests.

  (ii)        Subsection 85(1)(e): Property that is considered to be excluded property, based on the criteria in ss. 85(a) to (d), will remain excluded property even if it has been settled in a trust for the benefit of a spouse. By way of illustration, this provision would exclude property in a testamentary trust.

 (iii)        Subsection 84(3): Property contributed to a trust by a spouse where the spouse has a vested interest or where the spouse has the power to distribute the property to himself or herself or has the power to terminate the trust and thereby cause the property to be returned to the spouse, is deemed to be family property.

 (iv)        Section 84(2)(f): If s. 84(3) does not apply, property that a spouse disposes of after the spousal relationship began (such as settling the property upon a trust) and where the spouse retains authority alone or with another party over the trust property to require its return or to direct its use or further disposition in any way, is deemed family property.

法官认定以上的最后一条符合此案件设计的信托,因为房产是丈夫在关系之内转移到信托中的,而且最关键的是,他作为信托执行人,有绝对的权利通过信托再次转让房产,甚至是把房产再转会给自己。

 

法庭采取了妻子的立场,认为立法者的意图非常明确,就是像以上这样试图通过建立信托来转移财产、而且又在信托里保有把财产转会给自己的权力的情况,法庭是可以穿过信托,直接处理财产本身的:

[97]        Mr. V. candidly explained that his objectives in settling the B.C. Trust were to protect the Squamish Property from potential creditors and to insure that, on his death, he would “leave something” for his children. The fact that he organized his affairs to protect his property from business risks is not generally objectionable: V.J.F. v. S.K.W., 2016 BCCA 186 at para. 52. In any case, Mr. V.’s estate planning and creditor protection objectives, whatever they may have been, are not relevant to the analysis in this case. The plain effect of the transaction was the deliberate divestment of Mr. V.’s interest in potential family property under the FLA.

[98]        Applying a purposive interpretation, I conclude that it was the intention of the Legislature to discourage such transactions and recapture potential family property that was disposed of by one spouse prior to separation.

最终,法官直接将房子升值部分的一半分配给了妻子。

家庭信托本身是一个非常复杂的议题,而随着2014年Family Law Act的颁布,由为它增加了更多不确定因素。我们建议,如果您需要最完善、周全的方案来保护财产,最有效的方式是在设立信托的同时再签署家庭法协议,来确保您的财产在各个方面都能得到最大程度的保护。

我们在从2016到2020年连续五次荣获Top Choice Awards评价的“温哥华最好的离婚律师事务所”的殊荣,长久以来为客户提供专业、细致的法律服务。如果您有任何的需求,请拨打我们的中文专线:604 682 6466,与我们的家庭法律师预约咨询。

 

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