A Guide to Foundations in The Bahamas
Expanding the Options for International Clients
As a Common Law country, The Bahamas has looked beyond its boundaries and traditions to be of greater relevance for estate planning by persons from civil law countries. Through the enactment of The Foundations Act 2004 The Bahamas became the first leading Common Law jurisdiction to introduce foundations legislation.
Complementing and enhancing the vibrant wealth management industry in The Bahamas, The Foundations Act is also consistent with The Bahamas’ long history of establishing legislation that is attractive to international clientele and which encourages the continued growth of the country’s financial services sector.
Careful steps were taken to bridge the common and civil law worlds, ensuring that Civil Law features have been properly incorporated for the jurisdiction’s Common Law environment. This environment includes a long history of political stability and democratic traditions; a well-respected judiciary; and a large pool of financial services professionals. Within this environment, the Act addresses all the key issues regarding the formalities, administration and juridical nature of Bahamian foundations.
Good and effective estate administration is a blueprint for what is to be done when you are no longer there to do it yourself. Planning your estate can be emotional, but it may be one of the most important financial decisions you will ever make. The lack of proper planning may deprive beneficiaries from their inheritance and expose them to financial hardship and emotional turmoil. Starting early will ensure your financial affairs are in order both prior to and after your passing. For those who invest their wealth in The Bahamas, objective and professional advice and support are commodities in ample supply. An experienced financial planner will offer expertise on the myriad estate planning structures available in The Bahamas and suggest scenarios and strategies you may not have considered, providing genuine and impartial advice. The goal is to ensure your wealth ends up in the right hands and the value of your assets is protected as much as possible. Oftentimes, estate planning is seen as a trade-off between ready access to your assets and tax-efficiency and succession planning.
The Bahamas is an ideal jurisdiction for individuals, corporate entities, small business owners, corporate executives and professional and private investors to manage the transition of wealth from one generation to another with maximum benefit:
- The Bahamas has no income tax, estate tax or inheritance tax.
- Assets domiciled in The Bahamas are not subject to forced heirship laws found in many home countries.
- Enshrined privacy laws ensure a high level of confidentiality in the planning and disposition of an estate.
Successful wealth management is a whole life process which is most effective when started early and focused on achieving agreed long-term goals. The Bahamas offers a comprehensive range of private wealth management options which may be tailored for each stage of your financial development. International investors have access to a full range of professional investment management services, offering various types and degrees of discretion exercised and secondary services to suit their particular tastes.
For many years, the main goal of offshore investing was to structure one’s financial affairs to reduce or defer tax. Times have changed. While the ability to accrue profits within a tax neutral environment such as The Bahamas remains a valuable benefit, many other real advantages may be found in maximising the efficiency of financial assets by increasing the return, safeguarding against loss or ensuring efficient distribution.
The country’s banking practices and standards, regulation and supervisory controls are on par with that of the global banking community, while it continues to offer clients a high level of privacy. Major legislative and regulative changes affecting the international financial community of The Bahamas, and a more sophisticated client base, have shifted the balance in favour of capital protection and growth. Many of the world’s largest and most prestigious financial institutions have taken advantage of the country’s stable political and economic system to establish branches or subsidiary operations in the jurisdiction, to offer private banking services to high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families.
There are many advantages to establishing a private banking relationship in The Bahamas, starting with the opportunity to build a trusted, personal relationship with your own private banker who understands your exclusive state of affairs, and who will provide expert advice and stewardship of all your financial affairs. Private banking works one-on-one with clients who may be dealing with multiple income streams and business interests that require complex solutions.
Your designated relationship manager will analyse liquidity, debt and risk management, investments, tax strategies and estate planning, and draw upon the bank’s expertise in global wealth management to craft comprehensive wealth plans that provide sophisticated solutions to address your immediate needs and to lay the foundation for future growth.
Private banking guarantees far more preferential returns on investments than traditional institutions, and clients regularly receive better rates on mortgages, unsecured loans and credit cards. You can further enhance your financial privacy by forming a private company and opening a private account for your business.
The Bahamas’ tax-neutral environment and the ability to protect family and business assets from onshore creditors and civil judgments remain powerful incentives to investors seeking a private banking jurisdiction.