An offshore trust is simply a conventional trust that is formed under the laws of an offshore jurisdiction. Generally offshore trusts are similar in nature and effect to their onshore counterparts; they involve a settlor transferring (or ‘settling’) assets (the ‘trust property’) on the trustees to manage for the benefit of a person or class or persons (the ‘beneficiaries’). However, a number of offshore jurisdictions have modified their laws to make their jurisdictions more attractive to settlors forming offshore structures as trusts.
Official statistics on trusts are difficult to come by as in most offshore jurisdictions (and in most onshore jurisdictions), trusts are not required to be registered.
There is a common perception that offshore trusts are predominantly used by wealthy individuals and families as part of their tax planning. This may be true, however there are also other purposes that offshore trusts are used for.
- Offshore trusts are also sometimes formed as unit trusts to operate as a mutual fund.
- Offshore trusts are often used as part of an orphan structure in capital markets or trade finance transactions.
- Pan-national non-governmental bodies are sometimes established as offshore trusts. For example, the International Cricket Council is formed in the British Virgin Islands.
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