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Why the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands, the world's premier trust jurisdiction

The Cook Islands pioneered the most comprehensive offshore trust asset protection legislation. It provides unique and sophisticated legislation for asset protection and has remained the premier asset protection trust jurisdiction since 1989. A carefully constructed asset protection trust structure can provide an effective protective barrier which places assets beyond the reach of litigants, foreign courts, creditors or expropriation by foreign governments. The Cook Islands Government remains committed to the continued development of the Cook Islands as an international finance centre and works closely with the offshore financial industry.

Benefits of setting up a trust in the Cook Islands
  • The Cook Islands' legal system uses New Zealand judges and has well-developed trust jurisprudence and “tried and tested” trust law.
  • The world’s first and most comprehensive offshore asset protection trust legislation that has been copied by other jurisdictions, but never bettered. It provides unique and sophisticated legislation for offshore asset protection.
  • No forced heirship. A trust cannot be defeated by the rules of heirship in the jurisdiction of the settlor.
  • No taxation in the Cook Islands for an international trust.
  • Flexible estate and tax planning which allows clients to avoid probate.
  • An International Trust will not be affected by a foreign bankruptcy.
  • The Cook Islands does not recognise or enforce foreign judgments.
  • Intent to defraud must be proved to a criminal standard-beyond reasonable doubt.
  • Strict time limits for actions against trustees. The International Trusts Act prevents a plaintiff from issuing proceedings in a Cook Islands court against assets held in a trust if those assets were transferred more than 2 years before the proceedings were issued.

About the Cook Islands


The Cook Islands is an independent country in the South Pacific Ocean named after British explorer James Cook who sailed to the islands during his voyages in 1773 and 1779. The Cook Islands comprises 15 islands, the principle and largest being Rarotonga. Although the Cook Islands is an independent nation, it has a free association with New Zealand. The total population of the Cook Islands is approximately 12,000, most of whom reside on the main island of Rarotonga.


The Cook Islands became a self-governing independent nation in 1965 in free association with New Zealand. It has a written constitution and a Westminster style of government inherited from New Zealand and Britain. Parliament is elected every 4 years by universal suffrage.

Official Language

English is the main language of commerce in the Cook Islands. Cook Islands Maori is the indigenous language.

This is based on the principles of the English common law and closely reflects that of New Zealand and other common law countries. The judiciary is comprised of New Zealand judges who sit in the Cook Islands. The court hierarchy is the High Court, Court of Appeal with the Privy Council in London as the final court of appeal.


The New Zealand Dollar is the official currency of the Cook Islands.


Tourism is the major industry for the Cook Islands economy. Apart from the tourism industry, the main sources of revenue of the Cook Islands come from fishing, black pearls, and the offshore financial industry.

The Offshore Jurisdiction

The Cook Islands was established as an offshore jurisdiction in the early 1980s by a sequence of decrees it passed. The offshore judicial system is separated from the domestic system and trusts established under the offshore judicial system will be governed by the Cook Islands “International Trusts Act”.

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