British Virgin Islands: BVI Trusts: An Overview

Last Updated: 7 March 2017
Article by Harneys  

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal relationship created when a person (the settlor) places assets under the control of another person (the trustee) for the benefit of specified persons (the beneficiaries) or for specified purposes. The trustee is the legal owner of the assets put into the trust and is required to manage those assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries or to further the specific purposes set out in the trust deed.

Reasons to use a trust

1. Trusts for specified persons

  • asset protection, for example against claims from creditors or in divorce proceedings
  • to manage assets for young, incapacitated or irresponsible beneficiaries
  • to optimise the tax treatment of the assets placed in trust
  • to circumvent forced heirship rules
  • to achieve multi-generational succession planning goals

2. Trusts for specified purposes

  • for charitable purposes
  • for non-charitable purposes (unique to offshore jurisdictions)

Common types of trust

A BVI trust may be discretionary in nature, meaning that the trust assets are held for a class of beneficiaries with distributions of income and capital being made at the discretion of the trustees. Alternatively, a trust may be fixed interest, meaning that each beneficiary is entitled to a certain interest, for example the right to receive a set share of the income generated by the trust assets for a set period and then to receive a set share of the capital on attaining a specified age. Additionally, BVI trusts can be established for charitable purposes or non-charitable purposes. The Virgin Islands Special Trust Act (VISTA) provides for the creation of VISTA trusts which afford particular advantages (see further below).

Why a BVI trust?

The BVI is a British Overseas Territory which enjoys self-government in a stable political environment. The BVI is a well-respected, sophisticated legal jurisdiction and has built a strong reputation as a leading financial centre. International business represents over 50 per cent of the BVI's economic activity (tourism being the other major industry) and has led to the development of a comprehensive infrastructure of legal, accounting and banking services.

The BVI is the recognised leader in offshore corporate activity with the largest companies registry in the offshore world. The BVI Business Companies Act forms the basis and impetus for this growth and the jurisdiction is recognised for offering quick, flexible and cost effective structuring solutions.

The general principles of BVI trust law are derived from English trust law, and progressive and innovative legislation has built on those traditional trust law principles and created a modern and flexible jurisdiction in which to establish and administer a trust. The VISTA trust concept (which allows greater control over trust assets to be retained by the settlor or another) together with legislation facilitating private trust companies and non-charitable purpose trusts make the BVI a market leader and a preferred trust jurisdiction.

Advantages of BVI trust law

1. Perpetuity periods

Other legal jurisdictions limit the length of time a trust can be in existence. BVI trusts can continue for up to 360 years, with the exception of charitable or other purpose trusts, which may continue indefinitely.

2. Reserved powers

For a number of reasons, a settlor may wish to retain a certain level of control over specific elements of the administration of a trust. The BVI was one of the first offshore jurisdictions to bring in legislation allowing powers to be reserved in favour of the settlor or another. As a result, certain powers which would usually be vested in the trustee (generally a third party professional offshore trust company) can instead be conferred on a 'protector', who can be the settlor or such other family member, friend or advisor as the settlor choses to appoint.

The powers held by the 'protector' might include:

  • power to determine the law governing the trust
  • power to remove and appoint trustees
  • power to exclude or include beneficiaries in the class of potential beneficiaries
  • power to approve or refuse distributions of income and capital

3. VISTA trusts

Generally, trustees are duty-bound to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and to safeguard and enhance the value of the trust assets. The principal effect of VISTA, which can only apply to BVI trusts which own BVI company shares, is to remove the duty of trustees to monitor and intervene in the conduct of the directors and in the running of the BVI company (or companies) held in trust. In practice, therefore, unless a decision is taken to release the shares from the trust, decisions about how the underlying assets are managed would be made by the directors of the BVI company (or companies). Click here for more information on VISTA Trusts.

4. Private Trust Companies (PTCs)

Since 2007, it has been possible in the BVI to establish PTCs to act as trustee. Typically, the directors of PTCs are the settlor and other family members or trusted advisors. PTCs have proved to be very popular, especially among ultra-high-net-worth families, as an alternative to appointing a third party trust corporation as trustee of family trusts. Click here for more information on PTCs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions