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Law passed to speed up administration of estates

Published:Wednesday | April 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding.

THE UPPER House of Parliament last Friday passed a critical piece of legislation aimed at reforming the law dealing with the administration of estates in Jamaica.

Lawmakers in the Senate gave the green light to the Administrator General's (Amendment) Act with two amendments, which will introduce far-reaching reforms to clear up the 2,800 backlog of estates, worth more than $2 billion.

Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said the legislation would expand the authority being given to the administrator general to facilitate a speedier settlement of thousands of estates, and by so doing, improve the efficiency of the department.

Under the amended law, the administrator general will also be able to issue an instrument of administration and commence the administration of an intestate estate where minor beneficiaries are involved, removing the need for an application to be made to the court for a grant of letters of administration. This will greatly expedite the time it takes to commence administration of estates and the vesting of assets in the beneficiaries.

case load reduction

Golding told his colleagues in the Senate that the amended law would substantially reduce the case load at the probate registry of the Supreme Court and the Resident Magistrate's Court by taking the vast majority of cases involving intestate out of the court system.

"By relieving the pressure on the probate registry caused by these intestate estates, it will also enable the process of applying for grants of probate, in cases where the deceased has died leaving a valid will, to be handled more expeditiously," Golding explained.

According to Golding, the bill represents the most significant reform of the law of probate and administration of estates that has been undertaken by any government in Jamaica since the late 19th century.

"The law impacts the passing of property from one generation to the next. This reform is a response to the need for measures to be adopted to facilitate the transfer and productive use of assets that have been in a dormant state for decades, owing to the inability to distribute them to beneficiaries," he said.

Opposition Senator Arthur Williams said the legislation would be beneficial to many Jamaicans who had faced difficulties in the systems of administration of estates.

Government Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns called for a national public education campaign to sensitise Jamaicans about the importance of estate planning and preparing a will. "What we have to tell our Jamaicans is that it is OK to do a will ... because there is a belief that if you do a will today you will die tonight," she contended.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com