JIS News

The Probate Unit of the National Land Agency (NLA) is carrying out an islandwide education programme, which is aimed at assisting persons to acquire titles for land settlements schemes, which were allotted to their deceased relatives. The move is in keeping with government’s commitment to provide Jamaicans with legal access to land as part of the development process.
Golden Valley, St. Thomas was the first community to benefit from the services of the unit, when it launched its campaign in November 2005. The community has the highest incidence of deceased allottees, with approximately 96 lots for which settlers have died. Since then, the unit has visited Leicesterfield, Clarendon; Mandeville, Manchester; Brown’s Town, St. Ann; Bounty Hall, Trelawny; Catherine Hall, St. James and Hopewell in Hanover.
“We have gotten an overwhelming response” says Gillian Johns, Legal Officer and Supervisor for the Land Settlement Unit at the NLA. She adds that, “there was very little skepticism about our efforts out there. and the process has begun in making applications (for these schemes).”
She tells JIS News that, “we also interviewed settlers, who are still alive and who are enquiring about their own titles, settlers who want to transfer their properties to other persons.”
Land settlement schemes were developed in 1929 under the then Surveyor General’s Department and the lands provided under the project were to be used for residential or agricultural purposes. The idea was to sell land under special terms and conditions to persons in the society, who would have otherwise been landless.
Under the project, the allottee or purchaser was allowed to pay for the land over a 25-year period, during which time the Commissioner of Lands would survey and put in the necessary infrastructure as a prerequisite for the issuance of a registered title.However, in some cases, the Commissioner of Lands was unable to provide registered titles within the stipulated time period, and many of the original purchasers or allottees have died without the titles being vested in their names and their beneficiaries have not administered the estate.
Currently, there are approximately 1,500 titles in the name of the Commissioner of Lands to be issued to the estate of deceased allottees, in addition to 350 titles, which are in the name of deceased allottees.The Probate Unit is helping the beneficiaries to get the necessary documents together to obtain grants of probate or letters of administration, to facilitate the transfer of the titles in their names.
These documents include: original copies of the death certificate or original burial order for the settler; original funeral receipt; original will (if any); names, addresses, birth certificates and occupation for surviving spouse and children; marriage certificate for settler (if any); and names, addresses, and occupation of executors.
“The Probate Unit”, Miss John explains, “assists by going out into the communities, interviewing the beneficiaries or the next of kin, gathering the necessary information from them and then assisting them in getting certain documents from the Registrar General’s Department or documents from overseas that are needed to complete the documentation.”
She tells JIS News that once the necessary papers are received from the beneficiaries, the unit “prepares the documents for them and then does the necessary filing and processing and carries it to the end process where the grants of administration are actually issued”.
Miss John informs JIS News that the unit has not yet been able to issue any titles to beneficiaries and was still at the stage of information gathering.She notes that the work of the unit was being hampered by the fact that the births and deaths of some of the allottees, and their beneficiaries, were not registered. “We are trying to overcome that problem so we can take it to the second step, which is actually lodging the applications in the courts,” she tells JIS News.
“It is a problem that the Registrar General’s Department is facing and which is why they have instituted an island wide effort to register as many deaths and births as they can, because it is a very regular practice in Jamaica not to register births and deaths”, continues Miss Johns.
Encouraging beneficiaries to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the unit, she notes that having a title is very important as it allows persons to unitize land in the most efficient way possible.
The Probate Unit is located at 20 North Street, Kingston; telephone 967-3880 or 967-3891.