If you are a high-net-worth individual or work in a high-risk profession, you may have already considered asset protection solutions. If you’ve done any research, you’ve probably come across Cook Islands Trusts.

Like many offshore trusts, Cook Islands Trusts offer more security and privacy than many domestic trusts. However, establishing any trust is complicated — and risky if you don’t do it right. Working with an experienced lawyer is essential. This post covers the questions to consider when hiring a Cook Islands Trust attorney.

Five Benefits of Cook Islands Trusts

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A small country in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands has built an international reputation as the gold standard for offshore asset protection trusts. These trusts have become popular for professionals with high liability risks, such as doctors, business owners, and real estate developers.

Cook Islands Trusts put your assets out of the reach of creditors, courts, and banks in the United States. They also streamline estate planning, retirement planning, and the distribution of wealth.

Below are five advantages of Cook Islands Trusts.

1. Robust Protection From Lawsuits

One of the biggest benefits of Cook Islands Trusts is their protection against judgments in your home country. Because the Cook Islands does not recognize foreign court rulings, the plaintiff would have to initiate a suit in the Cook Islands. Not many litigants are willing to travel halfway across the world, hire a local attorney, post bond, and start their case all over.

2.  Short Statutes of Limitations

Like the United States and other countries, the Cook Islands has strict time limits to begin legal proceedings. A lawsuit is typically no longer an option if a plaintiff does not file their claim by the deadline. In the Cook Islands, the statute of limitations to bring an action against you or the trust is only one to two years.

3. Coverage for Different Assets in Different Locations

Although Cook Islands Trusts are located offshore, you and your assets don’t have to be. You can conduct all transactions electronically from anywhere in the world. In addition, you can use a Cook Islands Trust to shield all sorts of property, including the following:

  • Real estate holdings
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment portfolios
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Business inventory and equipment
  • Insurance policies
  • Private jets, yachts, cars, and other vehicles
  • Intangible property such as intellectual property rights

4. Tougher Standards for Plaintiffs

In the United States, most civil cases require juries to decide based on a standard of proof known as “preponderance of the evidence.” This means the plaintiff must show that a particular claim was more likely than not to have occurred.

In the Cook Islands, however, the standard is much higher for claims of fraudulent asset transfer to trusts. Plaintiffs must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the highest standard of proof in the US, usually reserved for criminal cases.

5. Strong Privacy Protections

The Cook Islands does not require public registration of trusts. Your assets, income, and personal information are private, making it harder for creditors and other unwanted parties to identify you. In fact, the Cook Islands takes privacy so seriously that local laws make it a crime to provide information about trust owners.

Why It’s Important To Evaluate Your Cook Islands Trust Attorney

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Trust law is complicated even within the United States. When you add the intricacies of international law, it can become downright labyrinthine. While some document preparation companies offer to create Cook Islands Trusts for you, the risks are too great without a lawyer.

Not every asset protection lawyer fits the bill, even when selecting a Cook Islands Trust attorney. Carefully selecting, vetting, and interviewing Cook Islands Trust attorneys is crucial for the following reasons:

To Ensure Your Assets Are Protected

A properly established trust may be the only thing stopping your assets from falling into the hands of creditors. You need to know you’re hiring an attorney with the knowledge and skills to handle every aspect of Cook Islands Trusts.

To Ensure You Follow Applicable Laws

Not only must your attorney navigate the complexities of the Cook Islands’ legal landscape, but they must also ensure you don’t run afoul of your own country’s laws.

For example, while the Cook Islands does not charge taxes on offshore trust assets, U.S. citizens and residents must still report those assets to the IRS. Failing to do so could create federal tax compliance troubles in the United States.

To Find Reputable Trustees

Establishing and administering a trust requires cooperation among multiple professionals, including lawyers, bankers, trustees, and protectors. Hiring an attorney with a robust professional network in the Cook Islands helps you find reputable trust companies and avoid hiccups.

To Keep Abreast of Legal Changes

The rules and regulations regarding offshore trusts are constantly changing. You’ll want to find an attorney who dedicates their practice to Cook Islands Trusts. That way, they will have their finger on the pulse of the industry, keeping up to date on relevant changes that could affect you.

To Make the Most of Your Investment

Cook Islands Trusts typically cost $20,000 to $40,000 to establish and $5,000 to $10,000 annually to maintain. If you’re investing that kind of money, you want to ensure your trust is as secure as possible by having it set up by a qualified lawyer. In addition, an attorney with established local relationships may be able to negotiate set-up fees.

Five Questions for Cook Islands Trust Lawyers

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When making your list of questions to ask a Cook Islands Trust attorney, be sure to include the following:

1. Is the attorney affiliated with a law firm?

The attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications between lawyers and their clients. However, the communication is not protected unless the attorney works for a law firm. Simply being a lawyer is insufficient for the privilege to apply.

In our case, Attorney Blake Harris is part of Blake Harris Law, a reputable asset protection law firm.

2. Do they focus on Cook Islands Trusts?

Experience in asset protection is only one of the criteria for hiring a Cook Islands Trust lawyer. You also want to know whether they focus on Cook Islands Trusts. Domestic trusts differ from offshore trusts; even offshore trust rules and requirements vary by country.

If an attorney doesn’t dedicate their practice to Cook Islands Trusts, keeping up with the changing laws and regulations is nearly impossible. At Blake Harris Law, we focus on establishing Cook Islands Trusts, which allows us to provide knowledgeable, up-to-date services.

3. Are they familiar with or have they ever been to the Cook Islands?

The Cook Islands are over 2,000 miles from New Zealand and nearly 5,000 miles from San Francisco. This remote location greatly benefits trusts there as it deters litigation. However, it also means that extra effort is required for foreign lawyers to visit and build local relationships.

Having first-hand knowledge of the Cook Islands and personal relationships with local professionals is invaluable for any attorney establishing trusts there. In thecase of Blake Harris Law, Attorney Harris travesl to the Cook Islands every year. He also visits other offshore jurisdictions frequently, building a global network few, if any, other asset protection attorneys can match.

4. Do they have a track record and client success?

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Professional, ethical, and successful Cook Islands Trust attorneys build a strong reputation in the asset protection industry. When making Cook Islands Trust lawyer inquiries, look into their speaking engagements and legal publications and teachings, read online client reviews, and ask about their track record of success.

As of the publication of this article, Blake Harris Law has never had a client’s trust compromised, ensuring the protection of their assets.

5. Do they have any experience establishing Cook Islands Trusts?

Rather than just asking, “Do you have any experience establishing Cook Islands Trusts?” a better question might be, “How much experience do you have establishing Cook Islands Trusts?” An attorney who has set up a single trust will have a different knowledge base than someone who dedicates their practice to it.

Because of the privacy laws in the Cook Islands, it’s challenging to determine which law firm establishes the largest number of trusts. However, at least one offshore Trust company confirmedthat Blake Harris Law currently establishes more Trusts with them than any other law firm in the world.

Why Choose Blake Harris Law

Now that you’ve learned the essential questions to consider when hiring a Cook Islands Trust attorney, why choose Blake Harris Law?

We dedicate our practice to helping clients protect their assets through Cook Islands Trusts. As the firm’s founding principal, I have written and spoken extensively on offshore asset protection. As a recognized leader in the industry, I have also been quoted in multiple national publications and news outlets, including Forbes, ABC, NBC, and CBS.

To learn how Blake Harris Law can help you protect your hard-earned wealth with a Cook Islands Trust, contact us today.