The premier trust company in the Cook Islands is Southpac Trust Limited. Since 1982, Southpac is not only the largest and most experienced provider of offshore trust and fiduciary services, it actually helped to create the modern legislation in the Cook Islands that gave birth to the asset-protection trust -- and which legislation continues to be copied in some form or another by other countries around the world. If you would like more information about Southpac, please visit their website. I provided a link to their website on my "Russian Brides" page.
The Cook Islands are located in the beautiful South Pacific northeast of New Zealand and are in the same time zone as Hawaii (e.g., if it is 4:00 p.m. in Houston, Texas, it is noon in Hawaii and the Cook Islands). In the way of fees, Southpac does NOT charge trustee fees based on a percentage of the assets held in the trust. They charge a flat fee for trust administration services and hourly fees for certain other services if requested (e.g., paying your monthly bills for you). They are there for you -- not the other way around. Of course, you still have control of the assets in the trust because not only do you set the terms of the trust, you will have the power to have the trust transferred to another corporate trustee anywhere in the world should you ever become displeased with Southpac's commitment to world-class service and their attitude toward you. I should note that I have never had a client fire Southpac. I should also note that neither Southpac nor the government of the Cook Islands compensate me in any way. My recommendation of a foreign jurisdiction and of a trust company to administer your asset-protection trust is based solely upon what is in your best interest.
Please note that YOU will dictate the terms of your offshore trust (by describing your needs and wishes to me), and you will have the trust terms direct the trustee to take care of YOU and to help you maintain your lifestyle. Also, note that YOU will always determine your lifestyle (even as time goes by). In other words, you will not be sending your assets to a trust company hoping that later they will permit you to use trust funds for a new car (even though you own four cars already). The trustee will not be your parent or otherwise pass judgment upon your lifestyle. The trust terms will even allow you to spend everything in the trust for a wild weekend in Las Vegas if you so choose (perhaps exciting, but not generally a part of any prudent financial plan). The trust will also have provisions that relate directly to the disposition of the trust when you die. All of the usual estate-planning provisions that an estate-planning attorney (such as myself) would normally draft will be included in your offshore trust. Your offshore trust will not only serve as your estate plan, it is the ONLY type of trust in the world (for a U.S. citizen) that will absolutely assure that the assets in the trust are fully protected against all lawsuits. In my opinion, a professional estate planner should first consider asset protection before considering other issues like taxes. What good will it do you to have a bunch of fancy estate-planning documents drafted to save you money on federal estate taxes if your wealth is wiped out by just one lawsuit? Do not assume that you will always have enough liability insurance and that no judgment will ever exceed your policy limits, or that you could never be sued for something that your insurance policy does not cover (e.g., sexual harassment, environmental cleanup expenses, punitive damages), or that you could never lose assets because of a divorce. YOU have to protect your assets to ensure that your assets will be there to support your lifestyle. It is just your life's savings; isn't that worth protecting?
Another benefit that Cook Islands law provides is that there are only two possible causes of action that a creditor could ever bring that could cause a Cook Islands court to permit a creditor's request to seize assets held in a Cook Islands trust. These two causes of action are:
The term "fraudulent transfer" is a technical legal term of art. This is good news for you because the issue of whether or not a transfer you made to a Cook Islands trust (following a bad event in the U.S. that gave rise to a lawsuit) is "fraudulent" will be decided under Cook Islands law in a Cook Islands court (the only place where a lawsuit against your Cook Islands trust can be filed). It does not matter what a judge in the United States determines. This fact also assumes that the person suing you has the money ($50,000+) and the inclination to pay up front (contingency fees are virtually unheard of in the Cook Islands) for an attorney to bring a fraudulent- transfer action in a Cook Islands court to obtain a determination from a Cook Islands judge concerning the possibility that a contended fraudulent transfer you made into your Cook Islands offshore trust may have, in fact, been fraudulent. Another hurdle for a claimant trying to seize trust assets in the Cook Islands is that Cook Islands law requires that the claimant meet a much higher burden of proof -- beyond a reasonable doubt -- to prove his case; i.e., that the transfer was "fraudulent." This is the same extremely high burden of proof requirement we have for criminal trials in the United States. Did you know that even the United States government (Federal Trade Commission) has tried twice to seize assets in a Cook Islands trust -- but both attempts were unsuccessful. Barring assets gained from criminal activities, assets in a Cook Islands trust are virtually immune from seizure from non-settlor (outside) sources. Saying that a Cook Islands asset-protection trust is tough is like saying that United States Marines are tough -- believe it!
Please contact us for a free no-obligation phone consultation with a qualified trust attorney.
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