The Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act ("VISTA") was first enacted in 2003 and subsequently amended in 2013. The VISTA trust is unique to the British Virgin Islands and has become very popular since they were introduced.
A traditional trust places a fiduciary duty on the trustee to ensure that the trust assets are protected and enhanced during the life of the trust. Generally the trust assets are invested through a BVI company and this means that the trustees take control of the company so that they can oversee the management of the assets and ensure that they adhere to the "prudent investor rule".
The application of this rule makes the trustees act very conservatively during their stewardship of the trust assets. The resulting vigilance by the trustee can also incur additional costs in both time and money.
Advantages of VISTA trusts
- The VISTA trust removes the trustee's obligation from the prudent investor rule and the trustee has no obligation to oversee the management of the underlying company.
- The settlor can outline in the "office of director rules" how and in what circumstances the trustee should use its voting powers to interfere in the management of a company (removing and appointing directors can be stipulated in accordance with the settlor's wishes).
- A standard VISTA trust can be established for a period of up to 360 years.
- It is also possible to add shares from an existing BVI trust to a VISTA trust, so that they become subject to VISTA legislation.
Common uses of VISTA trust
- For people with family owned businesses (especially for a sole director/shareholder) who wishes to run their company independently as well as benefiting from a trust's estate planning ability.
- For people unfamiliar with the concept of trusts, as it allows them to have some comfort when transferring assets to a third party that they can continue to manage the underlying assets.
- For trust assets that are invested in what the trustees would traditionally consider high risk investments (i.e. real estate development/speculation or more risky investment strategies).
Requirements to settle a VISTA trust
- A VISTA Trust must be established.
- The trust assets must be shares in a BVI company, which must be transferred into the name of the trustee.
- A BVI licensed trust company or a BVI Private Trust Company must act as one of the trustees or the sole trustee.
- The proper law of the trust must be that of the BVI.