The Panama Foundation has a Founder, a Council, a Protector, and Beneficiaries. Below we have explained what role each of them plays in the Panama Foundation:
Founder: The Founder is the person or entity that establishes the Panama Foundation in the Public Registry of Panama. Our law firm is generally the Founder of each Panama Foundation that we establish, since it is our law firm that goes to the public registry to incorporate the Foundation. The Founder has no influence over the control of the Panama Foundation, and is only recognized as the individual who presented the Panama Foundation articles in the public registry when the entity was originally registered.
Council: The Panama Foundation Council serves the same purpose as the board of directors on a corporation. The council members are each registered in the public registry with their names, addresses, and identifications as council members to the Foundation. Our firm generally appoints a “Nominee Foundation Council” to fill the council positions, so to provide additional privacy and confidentiality for our clients. When we appoint a nominee council, we provide our client with pre-signed, undated letters of resignation from each nominee council member so that our client can replace the council at any time. The nominee council has no control over the Foundation or any of its’ assets, they are only there to fill in the blanks in the public registry.
Protector: The Protector is the person or entity who ultimately Controls the Panama Foundation and all assets held within it. The Protector is appointed by the Panama Foundation Council when the Panama Foundation is created, however, once the Protector is empowered, the Protector can then remove the council members at any time without consent of any one else. The Protector can be appointed privately, through a Private Protectorate Document, signed by the Panama Foundation Council. Hence, the Protector can maintain this position free of public knowledge.
We generally appoint our client as Protector of the Panama Foundation, through a notarized Private Protectorate Document so that our client maintains complete control over the Foundation, in a private and anonymous manner. Once the Protector is appointed, it can always be changed per the Protectors wishes. However, a Protector is not required and if you prefer, you can choose to not use a Protector, or to use a nominee Protector.
Beneficiaries: Unlike a corporation that issues share certificates to certify who the owners are, the Panama Private Interest Foundation does not have owners, rather it has Beneficiaries. The Panama Foundation Beneficiaries are appointed by the Protector through either a simple, privately written Letter of Wishes, or through a more formal set of Foundation By-Laws (Foundation By-Laws should be written with the assistance of a Panamanian Attorney). Either way, the privacy and confidentiality of beneficiaries can be protected through their appointment in the Letter of Wishes, or By-Laws of the Foundation, since the contents of the Letter of Wishes or Foundation By-Laws may remain private and need only be known to interested parties. Also, a Panama Foundation may be set up so that the Protector is the sole beneficiary until his or her death, at which time the foundation continues for the benefit of other beneficiaries.
Letter of Wishes: The Letter of Wishes is a simple letter, written by the Protector, which specifies exactly how the Panama Foundation assets should be handled or distributed upon a triggering event such as the death or incapacity of the Protector. The Letter of Wishes should also state whether the Panama Foundation should continue existing, and have a new Protector appointed, or if the Panama Foundation should be dissolved upon the death of the Protector. There is no specific format that the Letter of Wishes must be written, and it can be written or changed at any time after the Foundation is incorporated, per the Protectors wishes. The Letter of Wishes can be held privately, or can be registered publicly. Generally, most people prefer to maintain the Letter of Wishes privately, so that the Beneficiaries and Protector remain anonymous and private.
Foundation By-Laws: The Panama Foundation does not need to have Foundation By-Laws, since a Letter of Wishes is legally sufficient for expressing the Protectors’ requested testamentary instructions. However, if one wishes to have a more formal Foundation testamentary document, written and signed by a Panamanian Attorney, and notarized by a Panamanian notary, then one can request the assistance of a Panamanian attorney to draft the Foundation By-Laws. The Foundation By-Laws essentially handle the same function as a Letter of Wishes since the Foundation By-Laws should specify exactly how the Foundations assets should be handled or distributed upon a triggering event such as the death or incapacity of the Protector. The By-Laws should also state whether the Panama Foundation should continue existing, and have a new Protector appointed, or if the Panama Foundation should be dissolved upon the specified triggering event(s). There is a specific format that the Foundation By-Laws must be written, yet the contents of the By-Laws can be changed at any time after the Panama Foundation is incorporated, per the Protectors wishes. The Foundation By-Laws can be held privately, or can be registered publicly. Generally, most people prefer to maintain the By-Laws privately, so that the Beneficiaries and Protector remain anonymous and private.