The position of assets vested in a sham trust
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The concept of a sham trust has changed over the years. Presently it is defined as a perceived entity that is not entirely what it portrays to be. In addition, a sham is therefore regarded as invalid with a deceiving nature. A sham trust has the consequence that all the benefits and protection of assets are destroyed, seeing that no trust actually came into existence. Considering the above, for the purpose of the present study, only an inter vivos trust was evaluated and discussed in detail. The law of contract is considered to be the foundation of the principles for an inter vivos trust. Therefore, the law of contracts can be applied to solve problems presented by trusts. During the course of the present research, it became evident: in instances where a trust is declared a sham, the consequence is that the trust will be deemed void. There are instances where a sale agreement has been concluded prior to the discovery of the true nature of the trust, namely it being a sham. This raises the question on the legal position of assets vested in a sham trust. A further question arises about the consequences and whether the courts should set a guideline for such instances. From the findings it is evident that such a guideline is necessary. This would enable courts to determine the consequences of assets vested in a sham trust. There are various possibilities regarding consequences for assets vested in a sham trust. To determine the applicable consequence, the court should deal with each case individually based on the facts of that particular circumstances. This consequence could either entail that the assets should fall within the founder’s personal estate, or whether the concluded sale agreement should be deemed void. It is evident that the courts struggled with the distinction between a sham and alter ego trust, however, the case law referred to below gives more clarity in this regard. A proper formulation of the aspects of sham and alter ego trusts was provided in the cases of Van Zyl v Kaye1 and Van der Merwe v Hydraulics.2 The formulation of the two aspects in the above-mentioned cases was confirmed in the Supreme Court of Appeal judgement in the case of WT v KT.3 In the Khabola v Ralitabo,4 the court dealt with the typical example of the sham trust. In brief, the fact of the case were, that the parties had the intention to establish a partnership that was simulated to be a trust.
- Law