Complex Offshore Corporate and Trust Entities

Hughes Fowler Carruthers’ partners have acted in most of the leading cases involving and attacking or defending trust and corporate structures.

“The agile team is renowned for its work where there are complex cross-jurisdictional issues”

The Legal 500 2020

Hughes Fowler Carruthers act for spouses both in attacking and defending trust and corporate structures and the trustees or company directors who are caught up in divorce proceedings.

Whilst many such structures are set up for legitimate tax avoidance reasons, or to pass wealth down through the generations, there are some trusts and corporate entities which are set up and designed to frustrate claims on divorce.

Trust assets can be attacked or taken into account on divorce in two ways:

  • First, if the trust is categorised as a nuptial settlement then the court, on divorce, has the power to vary the terms of the trust and order the trustees to make payment to one of the spouses; and
  • Second, if the trust in question is not a nuptial settlement, the court may take into account the trust assets if the court decides the assets are a resource available to one of the spouses who is a beneficiary.

The English court can transfer an asset owned by a spouse or held to be a resource of the spouse even if the asset is held on that spouse’s behalf by a company or other person. After the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Prest v Petrodel, attacking properties held by offshore companies (often referred to as “piercing the corporate veil”) is more difficult.  Each case, however, is fact specific.

Hughes Fowler Carruthers’ partners have acted in most of the leading cases involving and attacking or defending trust and corporate structures, such as Mubarik, Charman, Imerman, and M v M. We also advise trustees on how trusts should be set up and run to ensure that wealth is passed down to future generations and so less vulnerable to attack on divorce.