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Cook Islands Trust: The Strongest Asset Protection in the World

Protect Yourself Against Creditors, Divorce and Lawsuits

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Why Choose a Cook Islands Trust?

There are a number of reasons and circumstances that might warrant the use of a trust

Tax Planning

Tax optimisation and planning for yourself and future generations

Legal Protection

Protect your assets from frivolous lawsuits and divorce

Asset Protection

Protect your digital and physical assets from real estate to intellectual property

Global Uncertainty

Secure your wealth from unknown future political or economic threats

Bullet Proof

Unbreakable security from foreign governments

Estate Planning

Plan for and protect your family's future wealth

What is an Asset Protection Trust?

An asset protection trust is a special kind of trust that differs from other types of trusts as they shield assets from potential creditors.

A Cook Islands Trust being the world's leading international asset protection trust has a proven asset protection case law history. 

Foreign governments do not have sovereignty over the Cook Islands. Which means courts can not force a trust to be opened, as that would be breaking local Cook Island law. Court orders demanding account information or asset seizure are unlawful and are consequently rejected.

In the Cook Islands, a creditor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the trust was created with the intent to defraud within a short window of only two years in order to prove that claim. Such restrictions have made it so that no one has ever successfully broken into a Cook Islands Trust.

INTRO

Benefits of a Cook Islands Trust

1. Two Year Statute of Limitations

The legislation includes a solvency test that determines fraudulent conveyance, and requires a specific timeline and detailed information for creditors to pursue their claims. This is a major obstacle that will only be overcome by the most determined creditor. Typically, claims are settled through negotiation rather than in court.

2. Judicial Sovereignty From Foreign Court Orders

Court orders in foreign countries do not have legal authority over local trustees. Settlors enjoy restricted access to discovery. The legal system is structured to favor defendants, placing a higher evidentiary burden on the creditor making a claim. This provides reassurance to those contemplating the use of a trust for asset protection.

3. Protection From Fraudulent Creditors

Creditors must utilize legal methods within the Cook Islands, which have substantial barriers in place to deter baseless claims. The Cook Islands have laws that protect clients who live in jurisdictions with creditor-friendly legislation.

4. Privacy & Confidentiality

Cook Islands law allows for high levels of privacy. There are no publicly available records, preserving the discrete financial profiles and identities of its beneficiaries and settlors.

5. Anonymous Trust Structures

A Cook Island trust can hold anonymous LLCs and offshore bank accounts to obscure asset ownership. The trust deed itself is also not public record.

6. Favorable Tax Treatment

Cook Island trusts are not subject to income, capital gains, estate, gift, or other taxes. There are also no reporting requirements. This minimizes costs and privacy concerns.

7. Separation Of Legal And Beneficial Ownership

There is clear separation between legal title to trust assets (held by trustee) and beneficial ownership (held by settlor/beneficiaries).

8. Flexible Trust Arrangement

Cook Islands trusts can be amended and changed. The settlor/protector can be reappointed. This allows trusts to adapt over time.

9. No Forced Heirship Rules

Cook Islands trusts operate independently from inheritance laws of other nations. There are no forced heirship rules limiting how assets are distributed. 

What Makes The Cook Islands Unique?


Assets can be held worldwide

Assets can be held anywhere in the world

World leading asset protection legislation

The Cook Islands International Trust Act is the defining piece of legislation for asset protection

Custodian trustees permitted

Custodian Cook Islands trustees are allowed to be used 

Not publicly Registered

Trust deeds are not publicly registered

Variety of trust arrangements

Variety of trust arrangements for dynasty, purpose, and charitable trusts

Flexible trust structure

A Cook Islands Trust allows for very Flexible trust arrangements

Foreign bankruptcy is excluded

Foreign bankruptcy does not affect the trust held in the Cook Islands

Anonymity & Security

A multi-layered offshore trust gives full protection and anonymity for both the beneficiaries as well as the settlor.

Tried and Tested Cook Island Case Law

The Cook Islands International Trusts Act of 1984 and its groundbreaking 1989 amendment paved the way for asset protection features in trust legislation. This visionary move made the islands the trailblazers, inspiring other highly secure jurisdictions to follow suit. The amendment was created to provide protection for clients against unfounded lawsuits, when no other jurisdictions around the world were able to do so.

As a result, United States judges have no authority over the Cook Islands and can not compel any trsutee to take any action against the trust. The Cook Islands being apart of New Zealand's free association, gives the jurisdiction a premier position that is free from any tax haven imagery. A Cook Islands Trust has never been broken into, and the US government has tried twice, unsuccessfully, as it takes a high level of intent to defraud in order for a trust to be successfully accessed.

The Cook Islands have the strongest asset protection trusts in the world, a claim that no other jurisdiction can make.

Asset Protection Mechanisms at a Glance

Undeniable Proof

Fraudulent Conveyance

They must definitively prove fraudulent conveyance - that the trust assets were transferred specifically to deceive and defraud that particular creditor. General asset protection motivations are not considered fraudulent under Cook Islands law.

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt 

2yr Statute of Limitations

The creditor must provide clear and convincing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the transfers into trust were intentionally designed to deprive them of assets owed. This is an exceptionally high bar to meet in the Cook Island court system. Additionally, Cook Islands imposes a short 2 year statute of limitations on fraudulent conveyance claims against trusts. Any lawsuit brought outside this narrow window will not be entertained by Cook Island courts.

Must Fully Litigate in Cook Islands

Non Enforceable Judgments

Importantly, Cook Islands does not recognize or enforce judgments from foreign jurisdictions relating to trusts governed under their laws. A creditor cannot rely on a favorable ruling from their home country's courts. They must fully litigate the matter in the Cook Islands legal system. This negates any previous legal victories.

How to Setup a Cook Islands Trust

Step 1

Required Documents

In order to set up a trust in the Cook Islands you must include:

  • A copy of passport certified
  • Evidence of funds to transfer into the trust
  • Proof of physical address certified
  • Banking, public accountant or lawyer reference letter
  • Trust deed copy
  • Certificate of solvency
  • Deed of indemnity & Letter of Wishes

Step 3

Draft Trust Agreement

Your attorney will prepare the trust agreement, outlining the terms of the trust and identifies the Settlor (the one creating the trust), Beneficiaries  (the one who benefits from the trust) and the Trustee trust company (the licensed company).

Step 2

Know Your Customer (KYC)

The trust company requires that the settlor proves that a trust is not being registered for any criminal or fraudulent purposes.

  • Settlor's of trust must pass Know Your Customer background check
  • The settor must pass an Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) checks on anyone seeking to establish a trust which include the settlor’s identity, background, and financial history
  • Proof of funds and the need to provide adequate documentation to prove that the funds werelegitimately gained is required.

Step 4

Transfer Assets

Transfer your assets to the Cook Islands trustee. Note that assets do not need to physically be placed in the Cook Islands. Assets can include both physical and non physical assets.

Individuals with a High Net Worth

High-risk individuals

What Can it Be Used For?

Protecting Family Inheritance

A trust protects assets passed to heirs from claims by divorced spouses, creditors, and other threats. It prevents an inheritance from being squandered.

Minimizing Unreasonable Taxes

Trust assets may have lower tax exposure compared to personal ownership. This preserves more wealth for intended beneficiaries.

Asset Protection During Legal Disputes

Trust assets are shielded from seizure in the event of lawsuits or other legal duress situations.

Holding Investments

A trust can hold real estate, stocks, bonds, intellectual property rights, and virtually any other investment asset.

Confidential Wealth Storage

Assets held in a confidential and discretely structured trust avoid public knowledge or scrutiny of one's financial status.

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Trust Structure

There are four primary parties involved in a typical Cook Islands trust structure:

Settlor

The settlor creates the trust by transferring ownership of assets to the trust. They give up legal control over the assets while retaining beneficial enjoyment of the trust. The settlor can also be a beneficiary of the trust.

Trustee

The trustee is a person or company that holds legal title to the trust assets. They have a fiduciary duty to administer the trust according to the trust deed for the benefit of beneficiaries. The trustee can be based in Cook Islands or another jurisdiction.

Protector

A protector is an optional role but frequently used. The protector's duty is to oversee the trustee's actions and ensure the trustee acts according to the settlor's wishes. They have power to appoint or remove trustees.

Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries are those who benefit from the assets and income of the trust. There can be primary beneficiaries who receive current benefits as well as contingent beneficiaries who receive future benefits.

Cook Islands Trust Structure Options

Cook Islands Trust with a Swiss Account

Swiss bank accounts are notorious for their safety and privacy, so where better to deposit your hard-earned wealth.

In practice, the assets will be deposited/safeguarded in a Swiss bank account which is owned by the LLC (with you as manager), which is in turn owned by the Cook Islands Trust. This trio provides multiple layers of protection, whilst being able to benefit from the unique advantages of each of these tools.

  • Safety and Stability: Swiss bank accounts are one of the safest in the world. Swiss banking regulations require banks to hold high capital reserve ratios which serve to protect depositors’ funds.
  • Investment Opportunities: Swiss banks offer access to top quality investment opportunities for account holders who decide to open an investment account.
  • Efficiency and Service: Swiss banks are among the best in the world in terms of their efficiency and high-quality customer service. 
  • Privacy: There is still a culture of privacy among Swiss banks, and even the identities of account holders are kept highly confidential unless in extremely rare cases or suspicion of criminal activity. Furthermore, owning a Swiss bank account via a Nevis LLC is as close to complete anonymity as you can expect to get in this day and age.

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Cook Islands Trust with a Nevis LLC

This type of structure is the best way to protect your assets and, if established well before any problems arise, will avoid the issue of fraudulent conveyance.

This is because the trustee simply has to temporarily remove you as manager of the LLC to protect the assets, and so you will not need to make any dubious transfer of assets after you are faced with a liability claim. 

  • Asset Protection: Nevis courts also do not recognise foreign court orders, so any claimant will have to file a case in Nevis itself, which adds an additional layer of protection. 
  • Privacy: A Nevis LLC provides its owners with complete anonymity. The identifies of beneficial owners are not publicly available nor registered anywhere. Nevis is renowned for its strict privacy laws, whereby it is a crime to disclose the identities of company owners without authorisation. 
  • Tax-Free Jurisdiction: Nevis is well-known as a tax haven. Offshore LLCs can enjoy zero taxes on dividends, income, capital distributions, and undistributed earnings. 
  • Flexible ownership requirements: Nevis LLCs have highly flexible and favourable ownership requirements. There is no limitation on the number of members, and 100% foreign ownership is permitted. Nominee ownership is also possible for greater privacy. 

A Cheaper Cook Islands Trust Alternative

If you are looking for a more budget friendly asset protection option, Nevis is the logical next best jurisdiction. It has many of the same features as the Cook Islands Trust, such as confidentiality, strong asset proection laws, and no public reporting requirements. A unique feature is that lawsuits brought against the trust must place a 100,000 USD bond before any claim is made, which provides a strong deterrent against phishing attempts.

Other details of the trust include

  • There is a statute of limitations of 1 year of pursuance of any claims.
  • Creditors pursuing a claim must do so within Nevis's legal system, and does not bow down to foreign court orders.
  • Nevis law does not recognize forced heirship rules in the home country of a settlor or beneficiary
  • Trustees do not have the power to make distributions of the trust other than what is intended in the Trust deed and as per the instructions of the beneficiary
  • Nevisian trust law protects the assets of a trust from a creditor who tries to get at it through the trustee, or through the protector. A creditor can not force either parties to make distributions against the wishes of the settlor and as was directed by the trust.
  • Intended beneficiaries can receive payments from the trust without taking on liability from a creditor

How Much Does A Cook Island Trust Cost?



The total set up cost for a Cook Islands asset protection trust along with an integrated Nevis LLC is 15,000 USD not including any other services such as assistance with opening international banking and brokerage accounts. We provide the most competitive law firm based fees, primarily because we are a non-US based law firm. While most US lawyers charge absurdly high fees, we are able to provide lower cost trust formation as we are based in Panama which has lower overhead costs.

You will find trust providers and law firms quote upwards of 20,000 - 50,000 USD. We have been creating trusts in the Cook Islands for more than 25 years and as a result we have prices that are very competitive, with a legal team and in-house attorneys who are trust experts.

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We specialize in custom offshore strategies to reduce your taxes, diversify your wealth, and protect your assets so you can pursue your freedom.
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Who Are We?
Offshore Protection is a boutique offshore law firm providing customized multi-jurisdictional offshore services since 1996.

Offshore Protection is the world’s most trusted offshore services provider. Our team has helped successful investors and entrepreneurs reduce their tax bills, protect their assets and maximize their freedom for over 25 years.

Our holistic approach combines expert legal advice with innovative solutions that enable our clients to offshore their business, protect their assets, and become a global citizen.

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Offshore Protection

Our lawyers are well-suited to act as an efficient buffer between clients and certain offshore assets for asset protection and privacy reasons.

Complete Privacy

Protected via attorney-client confidentiality in addition to Panama's strict business and banking privacy laws.

Proven History

We have been around for more than 25 years - which means we know the industry and what works.

Our unique combination of asset protection mechanisms protects what's yours, no matter what the circumstances.

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    "As a proud owner of a second passport, a fully tax-free business and several accounts around the world. I can finally say that I have my plan B covered, thanks in large part to the team at Offshore Protection!"

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    "I felt like my assets were unnecessarily exposed. And due to my work I felt that I needed to keep my family safe. After hearing about Offshore Protection and the Cook Islands it was a no brainer"

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