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  • Writer's picturePoevai Garnier

A New Initiative In Trust Law - International Relationship Property Trust

Updated: May 3, 2022

The Cook Islands is leading the way with innovative new trust product. The Cook Islands international relationship property trust is a novel way for couples to manage their assets in the event that they separate or divorce. On the 1st December, 2021 the Cook Islands became the first country to enact a set of laws to address a serious weakness in estate planning for high-net-worth families.

Most jurisdictions have developed law, allowing parties to agree on how their assets are to be treated in the event of separation or divorce.

However, all proceed on the basis that the assets will be divided and distributed, and all are subject to review by the courts. Trusts are one of very few structures which enable assets to be retained intact and managed for the benefit of the family if the settlors separate or divorce.

The problem is that over the last decade matrimonial courts have continued to extend their jurisdiction to bring assets held by family trusts into matrimonial property disputes.

Even where a trust has been meticulously managed during the duration of the trust, courts prefer to divide the trust assets up and distribute them in lump sums to the settlors. It is as if the trust had never existed! All the careful planning and foresight of the settlors, and decades of careful management by trustees, go out the window.

Trustees & Fiduciaries (Cook Islands) Ltd developed the International Relationship Property Trusts Act 2021 (IRPTA) in direct response to this problem.

The IRPTA creates a statutory foundation whereby couples can choose to keep designated trust assets intact, in defined shares and under common management, in the event of their separation or divorce. The IRPTA also restricts the recognition of judgments of foreign courts from interfering with this principle. Family businesses are also particularly susceptible to the separation or divorce of the shareholders. For more information about the International Relationship Property Trust watch the video below:

Learn more about the legislation:

International Relationship Property Trusts Act 2021
Download PDF • 2.70MB

Fact Sheet on the International Relationship Property Trust:

Factsheet - International Relationship Property Trust
Download PDF • 1.61MB

International Relationship Property Trust Regulations:

International Relationship Property Trusts Regulations 2022 (31-03-2022)
Download PDF • 293KB

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