Overview of a Cook Islands Offshore Trust
The Cook Islands International Asset Protection Trust is the leading asset protection product in the most secure offshore trust jurisdiction in the world. A Cook Island Trust is for those individuals who would like to preserve their assets in times of uncertainty, against unknown political, economic, or legal forces.
Although the offshore financial sector has recently received a lot of scrutiny from foreign governments seeking to restrict the use of offshore services, the Cook Islands has been kept out of the limelight. The long arm of foreign governments can not reach the Cook Island trusts, nor do the islands uphold foreign government court orders demanding account information or asset seizure. A Cook Island Trust, explains, Jennifer A. Davis, chief executive of the Cook Islands Financial Services Development Authority, 'provide[s] a layer of insurance for something that cannot be insured—the unforeseeable'.
Cook Islands Trust Law
In amending the International Trusts Act in 1989, the Cook Islands were the first jurisdiction to include asset protection features in its trust legislation, a precedent that was soon to be copied by several other highly secure jurisdictions. The amendment was designed to protect clients from frivolous lawsuits at a time when no other jurisdictions in the world could. This piece of legislation remains the foremost asset protection amendment in the world, devised to protect the assets of the client under all manner of circumstances.
The Financial Supervisory Commission in the Cook Islands states that there are nearly 3,000 trusts, all of which offer full anonymity as well a security from creditors and legal suits. The multi-layered trust structure gives both full protection and anonymity for both the beneficiaries and the settlor. Both offshore finance experts and us at Offshore-Protection.com agree that the Cook Islands have the strongest asset protection trusts in the world, a claim that no other jurisdiction can make.
Private Trustee Company
We recommend that a Cook Islands offshore Trust be used in a combination package with a Cook Islands LLC for maximum protection, flexibility, and to further diversify your trust’s structure. While the LLC is held by the trust, the trustee (being an international entity or person, preferably located in the Cook Islands) holds the title.
The manager of the LLC—you—are able to have legal control over the LLC and the authority over any bank accounts that might be affiliated with it, in such a way that you have control of your assets, with provisions made for times of duress, which state that a trustee manages and protects the trust's assets. For more information, see Structure of a Cook Islands Trust, below.
Key Corporate Features of a Cook Islands Trust
Advantages & Top Uses of a Cook Islands Offshore Trust
There are numerous advantages in owning a Cook Islands International Asset Protection Trust, which include but are not limited to:
- Asset protection Investments are kept out of the reach of creditors
- Court orders in foreign countries do not have jurisdiction nor can they have control over foreign citizens (your trustee)
- Foreign governments have no authority over an international trust
- In order to reach assets a creditor is forced to sue within the Cook Islands There are significant barriers to filing such claims
- The Cook Islands are 'defendant friendly'—that is they protect clients who reside in potentially “creditor friendly” legal jurisdictions
- Assets do not have to be physically located in the Cooks Islands
- All business transactions may be conducted electronically
- The strongest and most tested foundation for an international asset protection strategy
- Many barriers to litigation created by the asset protection Trust Act
- Custodian trustee permitted
- Trust deeds are not publicly registered
- Allows a variety of trust arrangements such as dynasty, purpose, and charitable trusts
- Many various forms of investment opportunities
- There is a two-year statute of limitation if a creditor is to bring any action against you or the trust
- Flexible trust structure
- Foreign bankruptcy is excluded
- No requirements to file the trust deed with the Registrar
- Strict Fraudulent Conveyance – This is an important amendment that was enshrined within the amendment of International Trust Act. The legislation outlines a solvency test, which would determine fraudulent conveyance, requiring a strict timeline and details so the creditor may pursue their claim. Similarly, the standard of proof required for fraudulent transfer is that of a criminal act, and must be 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.
A Cook Islands Trust can be used to protect a variety of liquid and tangible assets, including but not limited to:
Life assurance policies
Any type of financial asset
High-risk individuals that are in high-risk professions such as lawyers, doctors, physicians, business vendors, retirement and investment portfolios, particularly benefit from a Cook Islands Trust. A Cook Islands Trust can also be used for:
Protecting assets in times of economic, political or economic uncertainty
Transfer of wealth through families
Minimizing or eliminating estate taxes
Holding stock options
Cook Island Trust Formation Requirements
The registration of a Cook Islands Trust requires the services of a trust company located in the Cook Islands. The fees vary accordingly from USD$1,000-5000 for registration and for administration. The trust company requires that the settlor prove that a trust is not being registered for any criminal or fraudulent purposes, in which a certificate of solvency will be required and a deed of indemnity. The company will provide the registered office and provides the necessary annual re-registration services.
Structure of a Cook Islands Trust
There are four different parties to a Cook Islands International Trust.
- Settlor—The person who establishes and whose assets are put into a trust
- Trustees—Are those that hold the title to the assets and administer the trust
- Protector—This is a person who oversees the operation and appoints trustees
- Beneficiary—A person or persons who benefit from the trust, which can include any person that the settlor whishes
The Settlor would be you, and you would place you assets in the hands of a trustee who manages the trust.
Your assets, which are managed by the trustee, must reside in the Cook Islands, and therefore are not subject to the legal jurisdiction in which you live. Trustees are regulated by the Financial Supervisory Commission in the Cook Island and are legally bound to protect the assets of the settlor for the beneficiaries. The trustees hold the legal title to all the assets within the trust, though they cannot benefit from the trust. The point of a trustee is such that under times of legal duress when a court requires that you hand over your assets, the trustee then becomes your failsafe. The trustee, who resides in the Cook Islands, is not subject to a court mandate and can simply refuse. Legally, the trustee can only distribute the funds for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
A settlor can establish a Cook Islands Trust with several trustees used for the management of the assets. Though a single trustee may be used so that the settlor may keep a close watch over the trust and for easy management, which can later change if needed. A domestic trustee may be appointed, however, in the event of a lawsuit or any legal claim against the settlor’s assets the flexibility of the structure allows the trustee to change hands to that of a sole trustee located in the Cook Islands, therefore giving the assets the due protection.
A trust protector, appointed by you, is the one who gives oversight; though is optional, but adds another dimension of stability and security for the trust, as the person is someone you likely trust, wither a family member, or attorney, as they are given the power to appoint trustees and veto any actions that the trustee might make on behalf of the settlor (you).
The beneficiaries would likely be you, and any one in your family (or anyone) and they are the ones who gain to benefit from the trust.
Taxation of a Cook Islands Trust
There are no taxes imposed on any Cook Islands International Trust, this includes, but is not limited to:
- No gift tax
- No estate tax
- No excise tax
- No income tax
- No capital gains tax
- No local taxes of any kind
However, an international asset protection trust should not be confused with an offshore account, that is, an account or international offshore entity that is used as a 'tax haven' to avoid paying taxes in ones own country. Any income generated from the trust is liable to be taxed, and it is the clients duty to report any such financial information in your home country.