A Nevis LLC is an offshore company established in Nevis, W.I. that provides asset protection for U.S. residents. The Island of Nevis, W.I. enacted a favorable LLC Ordinance in 1995. The Nevis Assembly amended the Ordinance in 2015 to improve the asset protection benefits of a Nevis LLC. It is completely legal for a U.S. citizen to create a Nevis LLC.
Nevis law establishes a charging lien as a creditor’s exclusive remedy to attack a debtor’s membership interest in a Nevis LLC, including single-member LLCs. Charging liens in Nevis expire after three years and are not renewable.
Nevis LLC Charging Orders
Nevis courts do not recognize a charging order issued by a U.S. court. In theory, a U.S. creditor must apply for a separate charging order in Nevis. A U.S. creditor rarely, if ever, obtains a charging lien through Nevis courts to enforce a U.S. judgment.
In 2015, one Florida court held that a creditor could foreclose a debtor’s interest in a single-member Nevis LLC through Florida court proceedings. The court held that LLC interests are intangible personal property subject to the jurisdiction of courts where the debtor resides and holds their LLC interest, in this case, Florida.
The court said it could order foreclosure of the debtor’s membership interest in their single-member LLC under Florida law because the membership interest is in Florida. Other courts have reached the opposite result holding that charging liens must be filed in the LLC’s originating jurisdiction, such as Nevis.
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Nevis LLC Asset Protection
A Florida debtor may get better asset protection by forming a certificated single-member Nevis LLC; the certificated LLC issues physical certificates of membership, which are deemed the sole evidence of LLC ownership. Certificated LLC interests are similar legally to bearer bonds or bearer stock certificates. The debtor can locate their Nevis LLC certificates in Nevis or another jurisdiction outside of Florida.
The debtor’s LLC interest would not be property located in Florida and, therefore, not subject to Florida court authority. There are Florida court decisions holding that a creditor must seek a charging order in the jurisdiction where the debtor’s personal property (LLC certificates) is located.
There are other parts of the amended Nevis LLC law that help protect against a creditor’s efforts to attack a Nevis LLC interest in U.S. courts. The 2015 Nevis LLC law provides that if a member’s interest is subject to a charging lien, the interest may be redeemed by other non-debtor members, or by the member himself, with other assets, including exempt assets. The Nevis Ordinance states that distributions payable to the charged member may be offset by calls for additional capital contributions. The 2015 amendment requires a creditor to post a cost bond before bringing any action to collect a judgment against a member of a Nevis LLC. The bond used to be subject to a maximum of $100,000, but the ceiling has been eliminated, and Nevis courts may impose a higher bond requirement.
The Nevis LLC law has barriers against creditor fraudulent transfer claims. Under the 2015 amendment, fraudulent transfer actions brought in Nevis are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. The creditor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the debtor transferred assets to a Nevis LLC to hinder or delay creditors.
A transfer of assets by a U.S. citizen to an offshore single-member LLC does not have any adverse tax consequences otherwise associated with the transfer of assets to other offshore entities such as offshore trusts. Taxable income and losses of a Nevis LLC are flowed through to the U.S. members. There are IRS informational reporting forms that owners of Nevis LLCs must file.
For example, a single-member Nevis LLC must file IRS Form 8832 to be a “disregarded entity,” although domestic LLCs are “disregarded for tax purposes by default.” People should consult their CPA regarding the filing tax reporting forms after setting up a Nevis LLC.
Tip: A realistic goal of a Nevis LLC is to improve asset protection defenses and negotiating position for purpose of debt settlement.
How LLCs Work
A limited liability company (LLC) is a popular business planning tool. Most investors and business owners use an LLC (instead of Subchapter S corporations) as their legal entity. Florida law gives creditors limited remedies against a debtor’s LLC interest.
Florida Statutes restrict a creditor’s collection remedy against a debtor’s LLC interest to what is known as a “charging lien” against the LLC’s cash distributions. If the LLC manager decides to distribute property or cash to the members, the LLC is required to give the judgment creditor the charged debtor’s share of distributions. In the event the LLC manager chooses to make no distributions, the member’s creditor gets nothing. This protection is not afforded to single-member LLCs. In Florida, creditors may foreclose a debtor’s interest in a single-member LLC in lieu of a charging order.
Nevis Offshore Company Formation
To form an LLC in Nevis, a person must (1) select a registered agent in Nevis, (2) pass a due diligence check with the agent company, (3) determine the manager of the LLC, and (4) file the required paperwork with the Island of Nevis. A U.S. entity or law firm can act as an interface between the U.S. person and an offshore formation company that serves as a registered agent and the forming entity of the Nevis LLC. The offshore company can be formed without ever having to leave the United States.
Nevis LLC Manager
The manager of a Nevis LLC does not have to be a Nevis resident or a Nevis business organization. A Nevis LLC’s manager may be the debtor/member himself or any other individual located in the United States or a different foreign jurisdiction. Some debtors have friends or relatives living in foreign jurisdictions whom they appoint as initial or successor managers.
A debtor serving as LLC manager controls the Nevis LLC, and they can maintain assets in the United States, Nevis, or anywhere else in the world. For example, a Nevis LLC may have a Florida bank account, or if appropriate, it may open an offshore bank account in Nevis or a bank in the European Union.
A debtor serving as manager of their own Nevis LLC does not have the best asset protection. A Nevis LLC provides better protection if the debtor appoints as either the initial or successor manager an individual or company outside of the United States. A U.S court would not have jurisdiction over a foreign manager. An effective LLC operating agreement provides that the debtor/member cannot remove the foreign manager. The U.S. debtor must be willing to trust a foreign LLC manager if an aggressive creditor threatens to attack the Nevis LLC.
U.S. debtors must exercise due diligence to investigate and interview offshore companies that provide LLC management services. There are many reputable LLC management companies, but each person should interview companies and persons who will control their assets transferred to the Nevis LLC. People should do more than rely on their professional advisers’ suggestions to select an offshore manager for their Nevis LLC.
Often, people are surprised that offshore managers do a thorough investigation and due diligence about prospective customers. Offshore management companies are careful about whom they do business with, and they are subject to “know your customer” regulations. For example, offshore managers are reluctant to become associated with U.S. individuals who are involved in disputes with a federal or state government agency or individuals involved in contentious divorce litigation.
An offshore manager of a Nevis LLC may have discretion over the management of assets transferred to the LLC. Asset management within a Nevis LLC is similar to discretionary financial accounts offered by most U.S. financial institutions. A Nevis management company typically hires a financial institution outside the U.S to invest the member’s money in securities throughout the world, including U.S. securities.
As is the case in U.S. discretionary accounts, the Nevis LLC member can direct the LLC’s investment policy and goals. The member can instruct the LLC’s money manager about risk tolerance and asset allocation between bonds or equity and between U.S. or international markets. The money manager of the Nevis LLC normally sends the LLC member monthly statements and trade confirmations if requested.
Some Nevis management companies are receptive to the appointment of a U.S. person as asset manager. The U.S. person is appointed as a co-manager with the authority to make investment decisions regarding LLC financial assets.
Nevis LLC vs. Cook Islands LLC
The Cook Islands also has favorable LLC statutes. Cook Islands law has similar asset protection benefits and barriers to collection. Nevis, however, has an important practical advantage. The Cook Islands are physically situated in the South Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. Travel to the Cook Islands is long and expensive. Nevis is situated in the Caribbean Ocean and can be reached by a short plane ride from Puerto Rico. It is easier and less expensive for a U.S. person to visit Nevis to interview prospective offshore management companies that will have control of LLC assets.
Important Court Case About Nevis LLC Protection
Wells Fargo Bank v. Barber, 85 F. Supp. 3d 1308 (M.D. Fla. 2015): Collection Against Debtor’s LLC Interest in Foreign LLC
A creditor’s charging lien and other collection tools directed against debtor’s membership interest in a limited liability company are based upon the laws of the jurisdiction where the debtor holds the interest rather than the jurisdiction where the LLC was formed.
But see a different result:
- JP Morgan Chase Bank v. McClure, 393 P. 3d 955 (Colo. 2017)
Nevis LLC FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Nevis LLCs.
How much does it cost to set up a Nevis LLC?
Forming a Nevis LLC with an attorney will often cost between $5,000 and $10,000. The attorney will draft an operating agreement specifically tailored for asset protection.
Are Nevis banks safe?
Nevis law allows banks to focus on security and secrecy for their customers. There are financially sound Nevis banks. Most offshore managers also work with well-regarded E.U. financial institutions.
What is a Nevis corporation?
A Nevis corporation is a business entity established in Nevis, either as an LLC or a corporation. Most people forming a business entity in Nevis will choose to form an LLC.
How do you set up a business in Nevis?
Nevis company formation begins in the U.S. A person can hire a U.S. entity or attorney to work with a Nevis company to file required documentation and to prepare an LLC operating agreement.
About the Author
Jon Alper is an expert in offshore asset protection planning for high-net-worth individuals.
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