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Cook Islands Trust for Asset Protection from Lawsuits

A Cook Islands trust is an offshore asset protection trust. It is a legal document drafted under the Cook Islands International Trusts Act. The act was originally established in 1988. Professionals drafted the statutes to safeguard assets from judgment creditors. There have been a number of amendments with the intention strengthening the asset protection provisions. The legislation has made other changes for complying with international requirements, and making legal clarifications. First, let’s look into the background of the country and why the Cook Islands trust laws were established.

Cook Islands Trust Asset Protection

The Cook Islands consists of 15 major islands. The Islands are situated northeast of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. They are located between American Samoa and French Polynesia and due south of Hawaii. A paradise of uncommon tropical beauty, visitors enjoy pristine beaches, clear azure waters, and rich fishing grounds.

Cook Islands Trust and Nevis LLC

But the islands offer a different kind of attraction. It offers a refuge for individuals who seek to protect their assets from a known legal nemesis or even unforeseeable circumstances. With its powerful offshore asset protection trust statutes, this self-governing island country has some of the strongest asset protection laws in the world. Even the long arm of the United States government – a formidable entity if there ever was one – flails at the shores of this tiny Pacific nation.

For this reason, a Cook Islands Trust may just prove to be the the fortress you are looking for; the best way to make sure your assets are safe from seizure or forfeiture. You can see in this comparison chart that Cook Islands trust stands above other jurisdictions. It effectively protects assets from lawsuits no matter where in the world a judgement may have been issued against you. So, how does an offshore asset protection trust work in the Cook Islands?

Cook Islands Map

How a Cook Islands Trust Protects your Assets

You place your assets in a bank account that a Limited Liability Company (LLC) holds. The Trust fully owns the LLC. Nonetheless, you remain in full control while the legal seas are calm. You can move funds in or out of the LLC. And you can do so no matter where on the planet you happen to be. You can sell or add tangible assets, and (working with a trustee). You can work with the trustee to amend the terms of the Trust. Naturally, you do this within the bounds of legal and protective provisions, as your personal or professional situation dictates.

Keep in mind that the primary purpose of creating the LLC within the Trust. It is not to conceal your assets from the government. It is to protect them. Any personal or business taxes that are due on the income that your assets generate are still your responsibility. So, the structure is tax neutral. However, there is no law that prevents you from securing the assets you have worked hard to build up. And at the current time, there are few asset protection instruments that are stronger than a Cook Islands Trust.

assets in hands

The Role of the Trustee

Let’s say a court issues a judgement against you that could threaten the assets included in your Cook Islands LLC. At that point, a trustee steps in to take over the reins temporarily. The trustee’s sole purpose is to protect the assets of the LLC within the Trust. If you are ordered by a court to turn over your assets, you must comply. However, the trustee is not under the jurisdiction of the court, so the orders fall on deaf ears.

As a lawful citizen of your country, you are obliged to instruct the trustee to obey the court’s ruling. So, if you had control, you would have to surrender your assets to the court. The court, in turn, would grant it to the person or entity who has won the lawsuit against you. However, the verbiage we place in the trust prevents trustees from releasing funds from the trust to the courts.  When the person requesting this action is under duress from a legal opponent, the trustee will refuse to comply. This is the case if a judge was compelling you against your will with a court order.


Impossibility to Act

This places you in a legal situation known as an “impossibility to act” scenario. You have complied with the court ruling. But your legal enemy still cannot access your assets. This is because the trustee, acting according to and safeguarded by the asset protection laws of Cook Islands, will not release them. In other words, it’s out of your hands. This is not mere legalese nor an example of sleight-of-hand. This is a legitimate countermeasure. It is one that you can employ (through your trustee) to preserve the assets you placed in a Cook Islands Trust.

Let’s face it. There is no shortage of individuals who are keen on ‘earning’ some type of compensation by milking the judicial system. This is the case in the US or in practically any other country in the world. It could a disgruntled employee. It could be a bitter ex-spouse or business partner, or even a disappointed client. Placing your assets in an LLC under the protection of a Cook Islands Trust keeps you in the driver’s seat. This is true even when a legal enemy wins a lawsuit against you or your business in your home country.
family property

The Trustee is Your Ally

It’s important to know that the laws in Cook Islands regarding the licensing of trustees are clear. They are comprehensive and strictly enforced. Government thoroughly vets the Trustees. The trustees hold surety bonds (insurance that protects you, the client).  Regulators thoroughly research their backgrounds prior issuing them licenses.

A licensed trustee is, therefore, eligible to take over as a manager of an LLC within the Trust when needed. In the highly unlikely event that a trustee appropriates your assets, the bond is to give you peace of mind. So, you know that your assets remain protected.

Surrendering control of your assets in the LLC may cause one to ask about the integrity of the trustee. However, we invite you to you look into the history of Cook Islands trustees. You will find a heavily regulated industry with a longstanding track record of proper fiduciary responsibility. Moreover, a court order against you would take your assets anyway. Therefore, it is a risk that thousands of people think is worth taking. Having the Trustee step in as LLC manager is a temporary and prudent step you can take when needed. As such, you take it avert the possibility of losing your assets altogether. When the legal crises passes, control and management of all your assets revert to you.

If needed, you can use a portion of the funds in your LLC to cover certain financial obligations. This may include including living, business and legal expenses. The trustee can continue to do this for you, if needed. You can do this in the event that the courts prevent you from directly accessing your assets. We automatically draft the trust with this contingency plan ahead of time.


Trust History

Trusts have a longstanding history with the courts. Trusts have been around since the time of the 11th and 12th century crusades. William the Conqueror became King in 1066. Under him, his kingdom created the “common law” of England. During the crusades, landowners who went to battle would transfer title to their land to a person they trusted. Therefore, someone could perform the services to the king. In that jurisdiction, they created the first papal trust. It was the year 1302 when Pope Bonifce VIII had legal experts draft the Unum Sanctum.  The 1481 Trust, Aeterini Regis, was created eleven years before Christopher Columbus set sail with three boats full of Conquistadores. The present-day United States has used trust since the colonial days.

So, the courts are very familiar with trusts. Case law shows that if there is a foreign trustee of a properly established trust, it effectively protects assets. We coordinate the trust in conjunction with the proper foreign financial institution. As such, this arrangement puts the control out of the local court’s hands. Suppose a beneficiary of the trust tries diligently but is not able to comply with a court order. If so, there is little that your legal opponent can do.

Trust Jurisdictions

In 1961 the Isle of Man codified the Trustee Act 1961. This act addresses powers of trustees. It covers how trustees are appointed and discharged. Powers of the court are also covered. Several revisions have been made of the years. This was, for many years, considered the go-to jurisdiction for asset protection trusts. The Cook Islands legislature teamed up with some US attorneys. When they did so, they created statues that surpassed those of the Isle of Man. Since then, the Cooks have accumulated many years of case law history. Asset protection experts consider them far more protective than IoM statutes. Nevis has since copied and improved upon the original Cook Islands statutes. As a result, Nevis has also shown itself as a very favorable jurisdiction.

father and daughter


When properly set up, your Cook Islands Trust can very effectively protect your assets from frivolous lawsuits. In addition, it can help secure your future. In can help you make sure your assets are used only for the purpose which you envisioned. Do you work in a field that has a high risk of litigation. For malpractice? Are you in the medical or construction arenas or other vulnerable field? If so, you may simply want to be prepared for any adverse eventuality. If so, consider setting up a Cook Islands Trust to protect your assets. It will give you the most precious and priceless commodity of all – peace of mind.