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For any individual who directly own assets in the Cayman Islands, it is important to put a will in place to ensure the assets pass in accordance with their testamentary wishes.
This is particularly recommended for individuals who are not domiciled in the Cayman Islands, as the application of private international laws can otherwise have unexpected consequences at the time of death.
In this briefing, we outline the benefits of having a will in place, the requirements for making a valid will, points to note for non-Cayman domiciled individuals, and answer some frequently asked questions.
There are three key benefits to putting a will in place to cover Cayman assets.
For a will to be formally valid under the law of the Cayman Islands it must be in writing, made by a person who is at least 18 years old, and executed in accordance with the following requirements:
The choice of witnesses is important and should not include anyone who may benefit under the will, or whose spouse or civil partner may benefit under the will, as any such benefit would otherwise be void.
There were changes to Cayman law in 2018 which broadened the formal validity requirements for wills made by individuals who die domiciled outside the Cayman Islands to the extent that they relate to movable property.
In particular, in addition to recognising a will made in accordance with the requirements set out above, the Cayman Islands will also recognise a will made by an individual who dies domiciled outside the Cayman Islands if its execution conforms to the law of:
It is important to note that this is only applicable for movable property in the Cayman Islands. To the extent that a will purports to deal with immovable property or any interest in land in the Cayman Islands then it will only be valid if it is made in accordance with the law of the Cayman Islands (as set out above).
Domicile can be a complex and fluid concept but, at a high level, the place in which an individual is domiciled is their permanent home. For individuals with connections to more than one place it is advisable to seek advice on domicile.
For succession law purposes, the distinction is broadly that immovable property is property that is fixed to the ground (such as real estate or land) and movable property is everything else (including bank accounts, shares, investments, and personal items).
No – anyone can be an executor. Although it will often make the administration easier if at least one of the executors is physically based in the Cayman Islands, we frequently assist foreign executors who are tasked with the administration of an estate in the Cayman Islands.
Yes – testamentary trusts can provide flexibility and asset protection over assets forming part of an individual's estate and are frequently used for succession planning. Alternatively, trusts settled during lifetime can be used to receive assets on death.
Depending on the circumstances, trusts can also be used to avoid the probate process altogether (although we still recommend having a will in place). For more information on this, read our briefing Cayman Islands trusts or contact us for further information about this.
No - there are no estate duties, inheritance taxes or gift taxes.
No, Cayman law currently precludes the use of electronic signatures or remote witnessing in testamentary instruments and there were no relaxation of the rules in this regard during or following Covid-19.
Yes - every will made by a person shall be revoked by that person's later marriage or civil partnership.
A will is not affected by divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, so it is essential to make a new will immediately following divorce if there is a resulting change to the individual's testamentary wishes.
This briefing should be of interest to anyone who owns assets of any nature or value that are situated in the Cayman Islands. For non-Cayman domiciled individuals, this often includes holdings in Cayman funds, shares in Cayman companies or other investments situated in the Cayman Islands (for succession law purposes). If there is any doubt about whether an asset is situated in the Cayman Islands and if a will should be made, it is always best to check.
For further information, please speak to your usual Ogier contact or a member of our team listed below.
Ogier is a professional services firm with the knowledge and expertise to handle the most demanding and complex transactions and provide expert, efficient and cost-effective services to all our clients. We regularly win awards for the quality of our client service, our work and our people.
This client briefing has been prepared for clients and professional associates of Ogier. The information and expressions of opinion which it contains are not intended to be a comprehensive study or to provide legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice concerning individual situations.
Regulatory information can be found under Legal Notice
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