Cook Islands: Offshore Trusts Guide
Legal Framework and Formation Rules and Fees
Cook Island trusts are known locally as International Trusts and are governed by the provisions of the International Trusts Act 1984 (The Act), which has been substantially amended in 1989, 1991 1994, 1996 and 2004.
The Act provides for the licensing of trustee and trust management companies. All International Trusts must have a resident licensed trustee with management powers (unless they come within the custodian trustee exception cited below). Normally this means that the International Trust is required to use one of the several registered trust companies which operate out of the Islands.
Trusts are exempt from Cook Islands taxation, except that they pay Stamp Duty.
To obtain the protection of the Islands' laws the trust must be registered by the licensed trustee company within 45 days of its creation and they must certify that the trust is an International Trust under the Act. The non-resident settlor may appoint a licensed and resident Cook Islands trustee as a custodian trustee and is then free to appoint managing trustees within his own jurisdiction.
The Act imposes strict confidentiality rules on trustees and the staff of licensed trustee companies.