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Samoa Trust: Establishing an International Asset Protection Strategy

Trust entities have become a significant part of global finance, and Samoa has positioned itself as a reputable player in this arena. Recognized for its adherence to legal precedent founded in English Common Law, Samoa has cultivated an environment that supports the formation and operation of trusts. Since independence in 1962, the island nation has developed a framework that accommodates various trust structures, enabling individuals and organizations to manage and protect assets. The Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (STEC), established in 1977, is one such entity designed to oversee the development and management of agricultural and other commercial activities for the benefit of the Samoan people.

As a key mechanism for asset management and investment, trusts in Samoa serve both the local economy and international clientele. The legal framework of trusts in Samoa ensures efficient administration and stringent control of trust assets, balancing the needs of settlors with regulatory compliance. The dynamic of trust management is often overseen by a board of directors, who are tasked with the fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. This system not only contributes to the economic stability of Samoa but also enhances its standing as an attractive location for offshore trusts and financial services.

Key Takeaways

  • Samoa offers a legally robust environment for setting up trusts, informed by English Common Law.
  • Trusts in Samoa cater to diverse needs, from local asset management to international investment.
  • The governance and control of Samoan trusts are accountable to both beneficiaries and regulatory standards.

Overview of Samoa Trusts

A Samoa Trust is established under the regulatory framework of the Samoan jurisdiction, providing a robust legal structure for asset protection, estate planning, and investment. The Trusts Act 2014 serves as the principal legislation governing the formation and operation of trusts in Samoa, offering modernized and attractive features to international investors.

Key attributes of a Samoa Trust include the following:

  • Confidentiality: Trust details are kept private, enhancing the privacy of settlors and beneficiaries.
  • Tax Benefits: Samoa Trusts typically benefit from a tax-neutral environment, incurring no local taxes on foreign-derived income.
  • Asset Protection: These trusts offer safeguards against potential claims from creditors, with a limited window of two years for submitting claims.
  • Legal Recognition: Samoa recognizes and enforces the legal structures of trusts, while generally disregarding foreign judgments that conflict with its own laws.
  • Language: English is acknowledged as one of the official languages, facilitating international communication and legal documentation procedures.
  • Formation: Trusts can be established swiftly, with provisions allowing the settlor to maintain a degree of control over trust assets.

The legal framework in Samoa provides for traditional trust structures along with the establishment of foundations under the Samoan Foundations Act 2016. This legislation allows for alternative methods of estate planning while aligning with the features and flexibility of the Trusts Act.

For more detailed information, individuals can refer to official websites and documents such as the Government of Samoa's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour website, which hosts relevant acts and legislative updates related to Samoan Trusts.

Legal Framework of Trusts in Samoa

In Samoa, the legal framework governing trusts is designed to ensure the proper management of these fiduciary arrangements, assigning clear responsibilities to trustees and accommodating the specificities of international trusts through tailored legislation.

Samoa International Special Trust Arrangements (SISTA)

Samoa International Special Trust Arrangements (SISTA) provide a modern and flexible structure for international estate planning. Under the Samoa Trusts Act 2014, SISTA enables the creation of trusts that offer enhanced asset protection and succession planning benefits, setting Samoa apart as a jurisdiction for international investors.

Trustee Responsibilities

Trustees in Samoa shoulder significant duties as mandated by law. According to the Samoa Unit Trusts Act 2008:

  • Trustees must ensure the proper management of a unit trust's investments and property.
  • Management Powers: Trustees have the authority to manage the investments subject to the trust's governing arrangements.
  • Functional Obligations: Trustees are responsible for acting in the principal capacity or by delegation, aligned with the terms of the trust.

Trust Law Amendments

Legislation in Samoa is subject to amendments to reflect the evolving needs of trusts and their beneficiaries. An example is the Trusts Amendment Bill 2016, indicating Samoa’s responsiveness to legal and societal changes. This bill, among other amendments, serves to provide updates to the Samoan Trusts Act 2014, catering to the dynamic nature of trust law.

Types of Trusts and Their Structures

Samoa's legal framework recognizes various trusts, each with structures tailored to meet specific objectives, such as asset protection and the needs of commercial entities. These structures dictate how trusts hold and protect assets, the degree of control by the settlor, and the mechanisms for trustee management.

Asset Protection Trusts

An Asset Protection Trust is designed to safeguard an individual's assets against creditors and legal judgments. Samoa Trusts provide robust asset protection features, allowing for:

  • Total Foreign Control: Settlors may retain certain powers, including investment decisions or changing trust terms.
  • Privacy: The identity of the settlor and beneficiaries can be kept confidential under Samoa law.
  • No Taxes: Samoa Trusts benefit from a tax-exempt status, enhancing their appeal for wealth management.

Assets are transferred to the trust, which is then managed by a trustee for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Samoa allows for a perpetual duration of trusts, meaning the assets can be protected indefinitely.

Commercial Trusts

Commercial Trusts are established for business-related purposes, providing a vehicle for investment and operational control in a professional context. Some key attributes include:

  • Flexibility in Operation: A Samoa Trust can be tailored to suit various commercial arrangements.
  • Control Mechanisms: Trustees have the power to manage and administer the trust assets, while adhering to the terms laid out in the trust deed.

These trusts often hold assets that are part of business operations, and trustees oversee these assets to ensure they are managed in the best interests of the beneficiaries or the stated commercial objectives.


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Role of the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is entrusted with the dual mandate of governance and strategic management. They bear the responsibility of ensuring the Samoan trust's assets are managed effectively and align with the broader public interests.


The Board serves as the trustee, oversight body, and policy-making entity for the trust. Their role encompasses:

  • Setting policies: They outline the regulations that govern the Trust's operations.
  • Ensuring compliance: They monitor activities to ensure adherence to laws and ethical standards.
  • Safeguarding assets: The Board vigilantly protects and oversees both real and personal assets of the trust.

Strategic Management

Under strategic management, the Board's duties incorporate:

  • Setting direction: They determine the long-term goals and strategies of the trust.
  • Monitoring performance: Regular assessments of the trust's progress and financial health are conducted.
  • Decision-making: The Board makes critical decisions regarding acquisitions and the development of trust assets.

Management and Control of Trust Assets

In the realm of Samoan trusts, trustees are entrusted with the responsibility to both manage trust assets efficiently and ensure their prudent development. This dual mandate helps to maintain and potentially increase the trust's value over time.

Efficient Asset Management

Trustees in Samoa are mandated to execute their asset management duties with efficiency. This includes the investment of trust assets and overseeing the acquisition of new trust property. Their decisions must adhere to the terms of the Trusts Act 2014 and be directed towards maintaining or improving the value of the trust's portfolio.

  • Investment of Assets: Trust assets are to be invested strategically to balance the growth and risk according to the trust's objectives.
  • Acquisition and Management: Beyond investments, acquiring additional assets and managing existing ones fall within the scope of a trustee's duties.

Prudent Asset Development

For the development of trust assets, trustees must adopt a prudent approach. This involves managing and disposing of trust property in a way that furthers the trust's interests while minimizing risks. Trustees are also responsible for creating or disposing of interests in trust property, aligning with the overarching goal of asset preservation and growth under the Trusts Act.

  • Managing Assets: Ensuring the assets under the trust are used and developed in a way that aligns with the trust's goals and legal standards.
  • Disposition of Assets: Decisions to dispose of or create any interest in trust property must be made judiciously to support the trust's long-term stability and beneficiaries' interests.

Economic Impact on Samoa

Samoa has experienced diverse economic impacts stemming from development across various sectors. These have been influenced by factors such as natural disasters, commitment to policy reform, and international financial support.

Contribution to Agriculture and Industry

Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Samoa's economy, contributing significantly to both employment and export earnings. The sector has benefited from Samoa's Trust in its move towards modernizing agricultural practices and enhancing industry standards.

  • Agricultural assets: Investments in assets have improved sustainable farming methods and increased productivity.
  • Industrial development: Efforts have intensified to diversify industrial activities, reduce dependency on imports, and bolster economic growth.

Development of National Reserves

National reserves in Samoa serve as essential assets for economic stability and development. The country's approach to building reserves reflects its commitment to ensuring a buffer against external economic shocks.

  • Financial reserves: The Central Bank of Samoa's policies augment the country’s financial reserves, aiding in monetary stability.
  • Natural disaster impact: Provisions for natural disasters are incorporated into economic planning, affecting the management and utilization of national reserves.

Samoa Trust Estates Corporation

The Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (STEC) is tasked with overseeing the control, management, and development of land and assets for the benefit of the Samoan people. This encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, from agricultural to industrial enterprise development.

Land Management

STEC has control over approximately 24,000 acres of land, which was transferred to the government's control following the restructuring of the Western Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (WESTEC) in 1990. The corporation's land management extends to the prudent administration and development of these lands, ensuring that they are utilized in ways that support the nation's economic growth and benefit the populace.

  • Key Responsibilities:
    • Ensuring efficient land use.
    • Preserving the interests of the Samoan people in land-related matters.

Enterprise Development

The corporation is mandated with fostering efficient and prudent agricultural and industrial activities on the land it manages. Part of STEC's role includes the potential acquisition and development of additional assets that could further enterprise opportunities.

  • Primary Objectives:
    • To diversify and enhance Samoan enterprises.
    • To encourage innovation and growth within various economic sectors.

The restructuring mentioned in the Samoa Trust Estates Corporation Reconstruction Act 1990 included measures to reduce government-owned debt and privatize some of STEC's operations, indicating an ongoing commitment to adapt and modernize its approach to enterprise development for the future prosperity of Samoa.

Investment and Commercial Activities

Samoa's investment landscape presents a variety of opportunities, particularly in the realm of real estate, land sales, and commercial ventures including industrial and agricultural activities. Investors can engage in the commercial market by investing in produce, livestock, and other ventures, while abiding by the regulatory framework set forth by the Samoan government.

Real Estate and Land Sales

In Samoa, the real estate market offers opportunities for investment, but it is crucial to note that land sales are governed by specific regulations. Samoa has a distinctive land system where customary land cannot be sold, but it may be leased under certain conditions. Freehold land represents a minority of the land available and can be bought and sold freely.

Industrial and Agricultural Ventures

Industrial ventures in Samoa cover a range of sectors from light manufacturing to processing operations. Investors can set up businesses to commercially produce goods for both local and export markets. The agricultural sector offers opportunities for investment in the production and commercial sale of various produce and livestock. Samoa’s government encourages sustainable practices and the use of local resources in these endeavors.


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Fund Administration and Financial Operations

Samoa's trust funds are managed with a focus on financial stability and growth. Financial operations within these funds are structured to maximize returns for unitholders, emphasizing diligent investment strategies and robust management practices.

Financial Highlights

  • Total Returns: For the financial year 2023, unitholders experienced an increase in total returns to 10.95%, marking a 1.7% growth from the previous year.
  • Treasury Bills: Samoa Public Finance Management Act 2001 outlines that Treasury Bills issued must be for a minimum of $5,000 or multiples thereof and are repayable at par within one year from the issue date.

Trust Funds Management

  • Management Strategies: The Unit Trust of Samoa, overseen by a Management Company, has been vigilant in identifying new investment opportunities while also monitoring the existing portfolio to ensure optimal returns.
  • Compliance and Oversight: The Chief Executive Officer of the Unit Trust of Samoa is responsible for ensuring all actions align with the Trust Deed, aiming to secure competitive returns on investments.

Settlor's Participation in Trusts

In Samoan trusts, the settlor holds significant rights including the ability to amend trust agreements, which underscores the flexible nature of trust structures in this jurisdiction.

Settlor's Rights

The settlor — the individual who establishes the trust by transferring assets to the trustees — retains several privileges within the Samoan trust structure. Specifically, they have the right to:

  • Specify the terms of the trust, including beneficiaries and how assets are to be managed.
  • Appoint or remove trustees, subject to the terms of the Trusts Act and the trust deed.
  • Be involved in investment decisions, often by reserving such rights in the trust deed.
  • Retain some control over the trust, which may include the power to direct or veto certain trustee decisions.

Amending Trust Agreements

A trust agreement can be amended in Samoa under certain conditions, with the settlor often playing a crucial role in this process:

  • The trust deed may include provisions that allow amendments, specifying the conditions under which they can be made.
  • Amendments are typically done to respond to changes in law, the settlor's wishes, or the beneficiaries' circumstances.
  • Settlor approval is usually required for amendments, ensuring that they maintain a degree of control over the trust's direction.

By empowering the settlor with such rights and the ability to amend the trust, Samoan law provides a robust framework for asset management and protection.

Samoa's Global Trust Reputation

Samoa has established itself as a reputable jurisdiction for international trusts, owing to its steady international relations and robust legal framework governing trust standards and regulations.

International Relations

Samoa has cultivated strong international relationships, particularly in the financial services sector. As a member of the United Nations, Samoa maintains diplomatic ties with various countries, including New Zealand, a key ally and trading partner. These relationships bolster Samoa's credibility on the global stage and enhance the trust and confidence of international investors and entities in choosing Samoa as a trust jurisdiction.

Trust Standards and Regulations

The government of Samoa has enacted comprehensive legislation to govern the establishment and operation of international trusts within its jurisdiction. The Samoa International Trusts Act 1987 is a pivotal legal document that provides for the registration of international trusts. Furthermore, it exempts both the trustee and beneficiaries of such trusts from a wide range of taxes, duties, and exchange controls. This legal framework positions Samoa as a favorable location for asset protection and investment activities, aligning with high international standards of practice and offering attractive incentives for global trust formation.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, readers can find concise answers to common questions regarding Samoa trusts. These inquiries often pertain to the regulation, establishment, and advantages of trusts in Samoa.

How does the Samoa Trustee Companies Act regulate trusts in the country?

The Samoa Trustee Companies Act provides a legal framework for the administration of trusts, detailing the duties and responsibilities of trustees. It governs the relationship between trustee companies and beneficiaries and ensures proper management and compliance with the law.

What are the benefits of setting up a trust in Samoa?

Trusts in Samoa offer benefits such as asset protection, estate planning, and potential tax advantages. They provide a level of confidentiality and are recognized for their flexibility in meeting the varying needs of settlors.

Can foreigners establish a trust in Samoa, and what are the requirements?

Foreigners can establish trusts in Samoa with the condition that they comply with local regulations. Requirements include registering the trust and appointing a Samoan trustee company to ensure proper management and adherence to Samoan trust law.

What types of trusts are available under Samoan law?

Samoan law permits several types of trusts, including discretionary trusts, charitable trusts, purpose trusts, and unit trusts. Each type caters to different objectives, providing a range of options for prospective settlors.

How are Samoa trusts taxed?

Samoan trusts generally enjoy favorable tax treatment. They are typically exempt from local taxes on foreign-sourced income. However, specific circumstances may affect tax liabilities, thus professional tax advice is recommended.

What are the privacy and asset protection features of Samoan trusts?

Samoan trusts offer robust privacy measures, keeping the identities of beneficiaries and details of assets confidential. They also provide strong asset protection against creditors and legal judgments, ensuring the security of trust assets.

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***Please Note: If you are a resident of a country that is a signatory of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) (or a US citizen) your tax reduction possibilities are limited. Due FATCA, CRS, and CFC laws you may not be able to completely eliminate your taxes without moving your residence. While opening an offshore company can increase privacy and asset protection, your tax obligations remans tied to your ownership of overseas entities. Offshore company's are often not taxed in the country where they are incorporated, rather you as the owner are obligated to pay taxes in the country where you reside. Please make sure you know your tax obligations, as we are not tax advisors. Please seek a local tax professional for help regarding your situation. 

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