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Cook Islands Trust

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Overview of a Cook Islands Trust

A Cook Islands Trust is the worlds leading international asset protection trust in the most secure offshore jurisdiction in the world. A Cook Island Trust is formed under the Cook Islands International Trusts Act and has the strongest asset protection case law history in the world. An offshore trust is for those individuals who would like to preserve their assets in times of uncertainty, against unknown political, economic, or legal forces.

A Cook Island Trust is the most effective means to create security, safe distance and confidentiality with your assets. 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'.

Table of Contents:

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 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 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: Trust & LLC Combination

We recommend that a Cook Islands offshore Trust be used in a combination package with a Cook Islands LLC or a Nevis 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. The Trustee then removes the individual as a manager from the LLC during times of legal duress whereby an offshore successor in a separate country which gives a second layer of protection instead of having them controlled in a single country.

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Cook Islands Trust & Asset Protection

A Cook Islands Trust is the strongest asset protection vehicle currently in the market today. Using such a trust together with an LLC provides you a bulletproof asset protection plan that makes it virtually impossible to break open the trust. By using an LLC with a Trust gives you maximum leverage, as the LLC owns the assets or accounts. A Trustee is legally obliged to follow the trust deed and can not hand over assets of a foreign court. There are significant geographical and procedural barriers that prevent creditors from access Cook Islands Trusts. Even the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has tried twice to gain access to trust and has failed - twice.

The difference between a domestic trust and an offshore trust like the Cook Islands is that domestic trusts that are held in the country where you reside must abide by local court rulings and judgments. Offshore trusts on the other hand are bound by their own laws.

In countries such as Nevis and Cook Islands where there are strong asset protection laws protecting assets held within the country, then foreign judgments are non-enforceable and a local trustee legally can not hand over assets to foreign courts without breaking local Cook Island laws and liable to heavy penalties and fines an excess of 100,000USD. In order for a creditor to pursue his/her claim against the trust they must file a local claim against the trust in a local Cook Island court.

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Advantages of a Cook Islands Trust

A Cook Islands Trust has many benefits which include: no taxes, confidentiality, asset protection and flexibility making it the most advantageous asset protection structure out there. Other advantages include:

  • 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

Top Uses

A Cook Islands Trust can be used to protect a variety of liquid and tangible assets, including but not limited to:

  • Investment portfolios
  • Intellectual property
  • 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 an Asset Protection Trust.

Individuals planning on creating an estate or family planning benefit from the fact that in the Cook Islands trusts exist in perpetuity rather than for a finite period of time, such as 20 years, as is the case for many jurisdictions that limit the life of the trust. This allows you to own and hand down the trust and its assets to future generations.

What type of assets can you hold?

People that establish a cook islands trust can use it for many purposes including to hold bank accounts, brokerage accounts, investments, intellectual property, physical property, and pretty much any type of physical or nonphysical assets including company shares and real-estate.

  • Protecting assets in times of economic, political or economic uncertainty
  • Wealth preservation
  • Estate planning
  • Transfer of wealth through families
  • Diversifying assets
  • Minimizing or eliminating estate taxes
  • Lawsuit protection
  • Holding stock options
  • Retirement planning

Unique Attributes

Strict Fraudulent Conveyance

This is an important amendment that was enshrined within the amendment of the 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'.

Any claim of fraudulent transfer against the trust must be done within the statute of limitations which is a two-year period. This means that if the transfer happened longer than two years than the statute of limitations is passed and not claims can be brought forward to court.

Key Corporate Features

Cook Islands Trust Corporate Details
Type of Entity International Trust
Type of Law English Common Law
Governed by International Trusts Act 1984
(Amended 1989)
Our time to establish a new company 3 days
Corporate Taxation No
Access to Double Taxation Treaties No
Share capital or equivalent  
Standard currency New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Permitted currencies Any
Minimum None
Parties to the Trust  
Minimum number One
Publicly accessible records No
Corporate shareholder allowed No
Location of meetings Anywhere
Recurring Government Costs  
Minimum Annual Tax / License Fee  USD$100.00
Annual Return Filing Fee Covered by trustee company

Cook Island Trust Formation Cost

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 and total costs for all related expenses can range between USD $10,000 - 15,000. However, costs may reach upwards of 20,000 - 25,000 USD depending on the structure of the trust as well as the extra legal services that may be required.

Document Requirements

In order to establish 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
  • Banking reference letter

Trust Documents

  • Trust deed copy
  • A certificate of solvency will be required
  • Deed of indemnity
  • The licensed trustee company due diligence requirements

The trust company requires that:

  • The settlor prove that a trust is not being registered for any criminal or fraudulent purposes
  • The company will also provide a registered office and provides the necessary annual re-registration services. 

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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 wishes


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 fail-safe. 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.

Multiple Trustees

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 anyone in your family (or anyone) and they are the ones who gain to benefit from the 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 one's own country. Any income generated from the trust is liable to be taxed, and it is the client's duty to report any such financial information in your home country.


A Cook Island trust has a name for itself as being the world's strongest asset protection trust in existence. There are several alternatives to a Cook Island Trust, most notable Belize which can be found at a fraction of the price, however, none can really compare in terms of asset protection mechanisms and its barriers in pursuance of creditor claims. Get in touch to learn more about what a Cook Islands Trust can do for you.


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