FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Trust Services, S.A. can help provide that margin of prudence against unexpected events when making your international financial plans. We advocate great care and conservatism when implementing a strategy and our guidance is designed accordingly.
Below are some of the more common questions we receive and we hope our responses to them will provide you with some useful preliminary information:
Please click on the subject tab to find our list of commonly asked questions
+ Q: I am interested in your services. What is the cost for an initial consultation?
A: An initial consultation is always free of charge.
+ Q: My Spanish is not very good. Are your staff able to communicate in English?
A: We have staff who are bilingual and can efficiently attend to your requests in fluent English and Spanish.
+ Q: Your fees seem competitive. What are the hidden costs?
A: There are no hidden costs. At Trust Services we uphold the maxim of being fair to the client, as well as being fair to our company. Our fee schedule is available on request and we are always upfront and transparent.
+ Q: I wish for my affairs to remain private and confidential. Will this be respected at your company?
A: Confidentiality, right from the first contact, is assured. The importance placed, by our clients, on trust and privacy are paramount to our approach as we seek to understand both their needs and those of their families, now and in the future. We therefore have the utmost respect for their privacy, especially when it comes to the sensitivity surrounding family wealth and succession planning.
+ Q: Compliance seems to have become such a burden. What are your due diligence requirements?
A: It is true that regulatory changes in the international financial services industry have resulted in increased due diligence levels in recent years. Where we are required to process and maintain due diligence, we always aim to make this process as simple and easy as possible. Every new client does have to satisfy the due diligence process before their account can be approved.
+ Q: Are your referrals and recommendations based on receiving commissions from third parties?
A: Never. Trust Services has maintained a strict policy of never accepting commissions from any outside source, so any introductions we make are for the sole benefit of the client and not ourselves. Any lawyers, bankers, investment institutions or other professionals that we suggest, therefore, are given in your best interests in that we have found them to have been reliable. We have established a wide network of excellent relationships with banks, custodians, brokers, lawyers and auditors.
+ Q: I would like to know that you have the right levels of experience and capacity to manage my affairs?
A: Our company President and Managing Director, a qualified international trust and estate practitioner since 1979, has been a member of the Latin America and Caribbean Banking Commission as well as an offshore financial services regulator for the British Government with over 50 years financial services working experience in Europe, America, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Over the 40 years of being in practice, we have achieved exceptional levels of experience and skill in Banking, Corporations, Compliance and Accounting in Panama.
+ Q: Can I engage your firm to attend to all of my international investment and estate planning needs?
A: We have centralised all the key elements of international investment and succession planning under one roof. Our fiduciary, corporate, accountancy, banking and compliance services offer you the complete one-stop solution to meet your requirements and delivered on time and in your language.
+ Q: The impact of Covid19 seems to have greatly hindered global business. Is your firm still able to operate and attend to my needs?
A: Our services are designed to be “Covid-proof” and we have continued full operations during the global pandemic throughout 2020. In terms of international investment and asset planning the location of a service provider is immaterial, provided other criteria are met. We can communicate via email, video or telephone channels efficiently and with competence.
+ Q: Are you able to assist me with my estate planning?
A: Yes, because of both our qualifications and experience. The company´s President, for example, is a registered trust and estate practitioner in the United Kingdom with a diploma in both executor and trust law and administration, having held several senior positions internationally in the field for more than 45 years.
+ Q: Can you manage both foundations and trusts?
A: Foundations, yes but trusts, no. We have chosen to specialise in foundations and do not hold a trust license but other than management, we are able to be consulted in every aspect of the general administration of trusteeships, including executorships. Our President has drafted trust deeds and a trust law for a British Overseas Territory. Foundations, however, are where our drafting skills and our expertise also comes to the fore: we can register a foundation charter and draft or amend the charter or regulations, provide a nominee founder and serve as the foundation´s council (the equivalent of being the trustee of a trust).
+ Q: What guidance can you provide for family succession?
A: Besides administration skills, whether you are a trustee, an executor or, indeed, a foundation council, the capacity to understand a family´s needs and concerns are vital. Empathy, as well as experience, is required. Trust Services, a family-owned business, has experience spanning across five decades in the handling and control of estates and family wealth as well as guiding and consulting beneficiaries.
+ Q: Beyond succession, what other benefits can a foundation provide?
A: There are many advantages, such as confidentiality. It is an offence for any government employee or financial services provider to disclose sensitive information concerning the foundation without a court order. Another key benefit is asset protection, excluding fraudulent conveyance by the client (attempt to hide assets from lawful creditors). After a statutory three-year period, no claims from a third party, including creditors, can be made against a foundation’s lawful assets; they will, therefore, be insulated and secure from outside interference.
+ Q: Can I represent my own foundation?
A: Yes, you can. As in the case of a corporation, you can be issued with a special power of attorney – subject to the terms of the regulations – which will enable you to undertake specific tasks on the foundation´s behalf. Additionally, you can be appointed as adviser to the foundation – subject, again, to the terms of the regulations – which can give you powers, for example, over the choices to be made regarding investments and beneficiaries.
+ Q: Can my foundation operate like a normal corporation?
A: No, it cannot. No commercial activities, other than charitable, can be undertaken. The solution is to form a corporation to serve as the business operating arm for the foundation which would be the corporation´s sole shareholder. Trust Services is able to provide nominee directors for your corporation.
+ Q: Beyond incorporating and managing my corporation, what other services can I expect?
A: Firstly, we have the facility to provide companies in several jurisdictions, although in practical terms it is normally far more expedient, and less expensive, to register a local company for you. More importantly, all your investments can be put under a corporate umbrella, such as brokerage and bank accounts or any immovable property. Our competent staff can effectively administer such activities from our offices. A corporation is also an important tool for succession planning.
+ Q: Can I represent my own corporation?
A: Yes, you can. Commonly, the three directors required for a local company are provided by ourselves which is very practical when documentation or letters need to be signed. But there are no constraints in you providing one or more of the directors yourself, and who are not required to be resident in Panama. Alternatively, you can be issued with a special power of attorney from the directors which will enable you to undertake specific tasks on the corporation’s behalf.
+ Q: How long does it take to form a Panamanian corporation?
A: Panama has a streamlined Public Registry which means the incorporation normally takes just a few days after the papers are filed. A Panamanian corporation attracts an annual government tax of USD$300 without any other annual government levies.
+ Q: Can you establish either an individual or corporate/foundation bank account for me and, if so, how long will it take?
A: Yes, we can. Our highly trained and experienced staff will guide you through the process. Depending on the complexity and type of account, as well as the due diligence requirements in Panama, the process could take between two and eight weeks from start to finish.
+ Q: Do I have to visit the bank or brokerage in person to open an account?
A: Although preferable, you normally do not need to visit the bank or brokerage.
+ Q: Does Panama provide Merchant Accounts and Brokerage Accounts?
A: Yes, and with general banking our skilled officers can assist you every step of the way. You should note, however, that Panama´s robust due diligence means that several weeks can elapse before any account is opened.
+ Q: Can you recommend any banks or brokerage houses in Panama?
A: We work with reputable banks in Panama and we would be happy to tell you who we have found to be reliable, but our strict policy precludes us from making any firm recommendations, leaving the decision to our client.
+ Q: Can you provide tax advice regarding any income I generate in Panama?
A: Yes, however with a word of caution: we are not qualified to advise you on any existing or potential tax liability you may have in another jurisdiction, so you must obtain separate advice concerning your non-Panamanian tax obligations. For your locally generated income we have experienced, in-house certified public accountants (CPAs) ready to guide you.
+ Q: Can you assist with reporting and assessing taxes payable in Panama?
A: Absolutely, whether you have just investments or are operating a small business in Panama. We have CPAs on our staff who can prepare the necessary tax returns for every declarable source of income, including the necessary tax returns for sales of local property, plus any income earned from renting out a property.
+ Q: Can you help me in purchasing real estate in Panama?
A: Yes, we can, and property can be owned both by foreigners and Panamanians. As with our other services we can help you right from the start, with realtor introductions. But once again, under our strict policy, we never recommend either the realtor or lawyer employed, always leaving the decision to our client.
+ Q: Can I hold real estate in the name of my corporation or foundation?
A: Yes, you can, and we would recommend that you do so rather than in your personal name, if only to avoid potential probate issues in the future. Property, held just in the name of your corporation, can still avoid problems with probate if we provide you with a Declaratory Deed, as opposed to a foundation, which is a simpler form of succession planning, the details of which can be discussed more fully.
+ Q: What if I rent my local property?
A: We offer full services which include processing of the lease, rent collection, organising repairs and, if applicable, ensuring maintenance and administration charges are paid. Our experienced bilingual staff can deal with all property related matters, giving you piece of mind.
+ Q: Are you also an accountancy firm?
A: No. Although, however, we are not a firm of accountants we do have several qualified accountants on our staff as we need to ensure that proper accounting records for corporations, foundations and other entities are available upon request.
+ Q: What is the extent of your accountancy services?
A: It may require simple bookkeeping, for example, when real estate is either rented or sold, or banking and brokerage reports are needed by a client. In respect of foundations and corporations, which can become more complex and where analysis is required, our comprehensive accounting services and reports may be especially relevant. We can guide and assist you with the appropriate level of services to suit your needs.
+ Q: I would like assistance with accounting for my local business?
A: This is where we can offer real value. Besides helping you with the set-up of your office, we are able to provide such services as payroll, tax filing and attend to general accounting for your local business.