Belize: Law of Offshore
Belize established a modern Belize Trust Act in 1992 which incorporated the best features of similar laws prevailing in other major offshore jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Panama and Bermuda. Trusts can be established either by oral declaration or by written instrument. However, unit trusts must be formal written documents and trusts over property in Belize are unenforceable unless they are written.
Non-charitable Belize Trusts have a maximum life of 120 years. Charitable trusts may be established with unlimited duration. Trusts formed under Belizean law are highly secure: a Belizean court cannot set aside or vary one, and no Belizean trust has ever been compromised. A Belizean court cannot entertain any claim against the trust property emanating from the order of a foreign court regarding marriage or divorce, or succession or claims by creditors in an insolvency.
The law provides for the creation of spendthrift trusts and allows a settlor to be the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust. Settlors and beneficiaries may give to trustees memoranda of wishes to guide the trustees.
The law allows for a protector who may also be a settlor, trustee or beneficiary. In carrying out his duties, a protector has a fiduciary obligation to the beneficiaries of the trust. However, he or she is not considered a trustee.
A trust can have from one to four trustees (except for charitable trusts). A trustee may also be a beneficiary and a settlor. Liberal powers are given to trustees to advance moneys for maintenance and education of children and beneficiaries. Individuals serving as trustees are personally liable at law for any losses as a consequence of a breach of trust. However, in the case of a corporate trustee the directors are not personally liable.
Trusts may be registered with the Belizean Registrar at the option of the settlor for a fee of US$100 (at the time of writing). The Registrar is required to issue a certificate of registration. An entry in the register of trusts cannot be opened for inspection without the written consent of the trustee.
On 15 June 2007, the Trusts (Amendment) Act 2007 came into force. This provides for compulsory registration of international (offshore) trusts. For this purpose, an International Trusts Registry has been established in the Office of the International Financial Services Commission.
The law provides that all offshore trusts governed by Belize law must have a trust agent resident in Belize whose office would serve as the office of the trust. A list of licensed trust agents is available on the International Financial Services Commission's website.
Only a limited information needs to be provided to the Trusts Registry, e.g., trust name, date of settlement, trustee name and trust agent name. All other information is kept by the trust agent. No confidential or private information needs to be disclosed to the Registry and it is not necessary that a copy of the trust deed be filed with the Registry.
The fee for registration is US$100 which is a one-time fee. If a trust was previously registered with the General Registry, it will be re-registered by the International Trusts Registry without a fee. The International Trusts Registry is not open to the public.