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A BVI grant of probate, or letters of administration, is required to validly deal with BVI assets held by a deceased person. This is most commonly required for shares in a BVI company (or other entity). It is important to note that the probate process cannot be circumvented by succession provisions in the articles of a BVI company.
The probate rules for the BVI are set out in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Non-Contentious Probate and Administration of Estates) Rules 2017. There is also separate legislation which specifically relates to the resealing of foreign probate from certain countries, a slightly faster and more cost-effective process than making an application for a BVI grant.
In this article, we outline the process for obtaining a grant of representation in the BVI. However, we do recommend seeking specialist advice to ensure the process runs smoothly.
There are three types of grant:
Where the deceased left a will, the applicant would usually be the executor named in the will, or the residuary devisee if there is no executor able or willing to apply.
Where the deceased died intestate, the rights of family members to apply for letters of administration are determined by a strict order of priority.
For the estates of persons dying domiciled outside of the BVI, either with or without a will, there are slightly different rules that determine who can apply for a grant, depending on the circumstances, which are quite particular and include:
In other cases, the court may order that a grant be issued to other persons. Many of the uncertainties arising from the application of these rules for non-BVI domiciled individuals can be anticipated and avoided when preparing a will that governs BVI assets.
Applications for a grant must be filed in paper form and on the electronic filing portal of the BVI Supreme Court. A number of documents must be enclosed with all applications, depending on the circumstances, including:
In addition, for the estates of persons dying domiciled outside of the BVI, an affidavit of foreign law must be provided from a suitably qualified attorney in the country concerned. If a will is being proved, there should be an accompanying affidavit of facts setting out the place of execution of the will, and details of the domicile and habitual residence of the deceased must also be provided. If a foreign grant is being resealed, it must be translated into English. All affidavits must be legalised or apostilled.
Depending on the particular circumstances in each case, the co-ordination, translation, and authentication of supporting documents can be protracted and expensive – particularly for estates of non-BVI domiciled individuals, as the BVI Registry will not accept or consider incomplete applications. However, as previously noted, many of the probate requirements can be anticipated and planned for at the time of putting a will in place.
The total fee for BVI probate depends on each document filed as part of the application.
The fee for the declaration and account of estate depends on the value of the BVI estate and can range from US$200 to US$5,000.
At the time of making the application for a grant of probate or letters of administration, the applicant is required to advertise the application for two consecutive weeks in a local BVI newspaper. The advertisement must contain some limited details about the estate.
There is no deadline for making an application. However, an application that is made more than three years after the death of the deceased will need to include an affidavit which explains the reason for the delay.
It usually takes three to six months to receive the grant after submitting an application, assuming that there are no issues or complications.
The BVI probate rules are specific and technical. So, to expedite the whole probate process, it is important to anticipate issues and address these properly as part of the application. It is also advisable to consider what succession planning options might be undertaken for BVI assets during lifetime, as this can simplify or avoid the BVI probate process altogether.
If you have any questions about obtaining a grant of representation in the BVI, please contact one of our team who will be happy to assist.
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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