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Is the Cook Islands Trust the Best Trust Out There?

When it comes to offshore asset protection trusts, the Cook Islands trust is synonymous with security and reliability. This reputation is built on a foundation of robust regulatory and legal measures. In addition, the Cook Islands legislature consistently improves upon the statutes over time. But what sets the Cook Islands Trust apart from other trusts? What are the benefits and how do you protect your assets the right way? Let’s take a closer look at some of the features that make it one of the best trusts available. But first, let’s compare the Cook Islands trust to other jurisdictions.

Cook islands Trust Comparison
Palm Trees in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Our organization has established more Cook Islands trusts than any company in the world.

Comparing Cook Islands Trust to Other Jurisdictions

Legal experts consider the Cook Islands trust as one of the premier offshore asset protection trusts available. However, it is not the only option. There are other jurisdictions that offer similar trust structures for asset protection. Notably, we establish trusts in all of them. First we will summarize Cook Islands trust, then we compare it to a few popular examples:

  • Cook Islands

    Cook Islands is a small island nation in the South Pacific. It is an independent part of New Zealand. Attorneys know for its strong asset protection laws. Cook Islands does not recognize foreign court judgements. Therefore, this makes it difficult for plaintiffs to seize assets held in Cook Islands trusts. Cook Islands also has a rigorous licensing process for trustees and prohibits trustees from inappropriately benefiting from the trust.
    GLOBAL CORRUPTION PERCEPTIONS INDEX RANKING: Tied for #1 of 180 countries (as part of New Zealand).

  • Nevis

    Nevis is one island in the two-island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. It is a small island in the Caribbean that attorneys know for its strong asset protection laws. Like the Cook Islands, Nevis does not recognize foreign court judgements. This makes it difficult for plaintiffs to seize assets held in Nevis trusts. Nevis also has a rigorous licensing process for trustees and prohibits trustees from benefiting from the trust. Compared to the Cook Islands, which has had trust law in place since 1984, the Nevis trust have been in place since 1996.
    GLOBAL CORRUPTION PERCEPTIONS INDEX RANKING: Not ranked. (We would put it around #34 out of 180, similar to neighboring Dominica.)

  • Belize

    Belize is another Caribbean nation that is popular for asset protection trusts. Like the Cook Islands and Nevis, Belize does not recognize foreign court judgements. Laws prohibit trustees from inappropriately benefiting from the trust. Belize trust law also has a strong regulatory framework, which includes an independent Trust Registrar to oversee trust activity.

  • Samoa

    Samoa is another jurisdiction that offers a strong legal framework for asset protection trusts. Samoa trust law is robust trust and provides for the protection of assets from creditors and legal challenges. Laws prevent trustees from inappropriately benefiting from the trust. They obtain licensure from the Samoa Financial Services Authority.

As you can see, Cook Islands (in association with new Zealand) is ranked as the most trusted country in the world according to Transparency International. When comparing these jurisdictions, it is worth noting that each has its own unique laws and regulations, and the suitability of a particular jurisdiction for an individual.

Most Trusted Jurisdiction

Each year, Transparency International releases its “Global Corruption Perceptions Index” (GCPI). The index ranks the trustworthiness of countries around the world. Notably, they have consistently ranked New Zealand as the most trusted country in the world according to the GCPI. (In some years it was tied for first and in 2017 it was ranked second out of 180 countries.) Cook Islands is a part of New Zealand.

In 1901, New Zealand annexed the Cook Islands [1]. From a legal perspective, there is no such thing as Cook Islands citizenship. The Cook Islands is a self-governing country in free association with New Zealand. It is part of the Realm of New Zealand. As such, Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens.

Thus, the Cook Islands is part of the most trusted jurisdiction in the world. This is true not only in legal theory. It is true in actual practice. We have established Cook Islands trusts since 1998. As such, we have never seen a Cook Islands trustee company behave in anything but an honorable fashion.

Cook Islands Trust Laws

First, as stated, it’s important to understand that the Cook Islands judicial system does not recognize foreign court judgements. This means that if a plaintiff, for example, attempted to seize assets from a Cook Islands Trust trustee in accordance with a judgement from a U.S. court, the Cook Islands would not recognize that judgement. The plaintiff would have to re-litigate the issue before a court in the Cook Islands. Cook Islands laws prove very unfriendly to judgment creditors. This provides an added layer of protection for trust assets from foreign legal challenges.

Another key aspect of the Cook Islands Trust is the rigorous licensing and bonding process that trustees must undergo. The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) must license Trustees. This is the case whether they be individuals or trustee companies. They must also obtain a bond from an insurance company. This ensures that funds are protected against any wrongful actions by the trustee. These safeguards give peace of mind to the trust’s grantor.

The trustee of a Cook Islands Trust is also prohibited from inappropriately benefiting from the trust. The trustee’s responsibilities are to follow the terms of the trust. They must act as instructed by the grantor, and protect the trust in accordance with the laws of the Cook Islands. In the event of attempts by foreign courts to seize the assets of the trust, they are duty-bound to represent the best interest of the trust parties. This ensures that the trustee company uses trust assets only for the benefit of the intended beneficiaries, and not for the personal gain of the trustee.

Reputable Trustees

Cook Islands has reputable trustee companies that take great care to ensure the legitimacy of their clients. Thus, the law requires that they conduct client due diligence. This is done thorough Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) checks on trust settlors. These checks investigate the identity and financial background of the settlor. It is to ensure that they have not acquired funds through illegal means such as money laundering. By conducting these checks, reputable trustee companies protect both their own business and the reputation of the Cook Islands. It maintains the integrity of the Cook Islands the financial services industry. Simply put, these checks attempt to serve the good guy clients and keep out the bad guy clients.

Insurance Bond

Trustee companies in the Cook Islands also have insurance policies with reputable insurers. This helps protect their clients in the event of loss or negligence on the part of the trustee company. For example, imagine you are a business owner and you want to protect your assets from potential legal challenges. You place your assets into a Cook Islands Trust with a reputable, insured trustee company. Thus, you can rest assured that your trust company will protect your trust assets from legal attack. In the event of a lawsuit or other unforeseen threats, your money remains safe and secure.


It’s worth noting that to those now lacking experience, placing your assets in a foreign country can be daunting. So, it is important to understand the Cook Islands judicial system and the safety measures that Cook Islands trustee companies take. Getting comfortable with the Cook Islands trust as an asset protection tool can give you tremendous peace of mind. The Cook Islands Trust is the gold standard of offshore asset protection trusts. It is widely recognized as one of the premier trusts available. It offers a combination of safety and security that other trust jurisdictions do not match. This makes it a perfect choice for those looking to safeguard their assets.

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