KINGSTON — The Ministry of Justice is expediting the disposal of most of the 9,000 previously filed, and new applications for probate and letters of administration, over the next four to six months.
This has to do with the releasing of capital of the estate of deceased persons to their families.
Explaining the need for this special arrangement at yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said that since 1980, over 9,000 applications for probates and letters of administration remain dormant in the Supreme Court.
“The primary reason for this is that when the families of deceased persons hear the cost of stamping the probate, they just cease (proceedings), because they just cannot afford the amount which oftentimes exceed $100,000, sometimes going into millions,” he noted. In addition to this, they were also required to pay 15 per cent of the value of the estate (death duties), which was reduced to seven per cent in recent years.
Mr. Chuck said that in recognition of this challenge, the Minister of Finance and Planning, Hon. Audley Shaw had, this financial year, reduced the stamping of these applications to a flat fee of $5,000 (for previous applications) and $5,000 to $25,000 for new applications, dependent on the value.
Pointing out that death duties have also been reduced from seven to 1.5 per cent, the Minister said what this means is that the families can now have their properties/wills probated and letters of administration addressed, allowing their capital to be release and have access to titles.
It is this process that is being expedited, the Minister explained, to fast-track the correction and collection of these documents.
“Sometimes when lawyers submit them (application documents), there are errors, and therefore the lawyers will have to collect and correct them. Once they are completed, they collect the probate and the letters of administration. That will complete the file and they can stamp the documents and pay the estate duties, and thereafter they can proceed to get proper titles, and unlock the huge amount of capital,” he pointed out.
Mr. Chuck said this would be especially beneficial for properties in inner city communities, where persons could not beforehand receive letters of administration and were therefore unable to use these properties as collateral to borrow money to improve them.
On another matter, the Minister said the Ministry will be submitting to Cabinet a proposal for amendment to the divorce legislation, to allow for a Master in Chambers to grant the decree nisi, and the decree absolute to be granted by a Puisne judge.
This is being done as the Ministry seeks to clear the backlog of divorce submissions to the courts.
The Minister said that each month there are at least 200 applications for divorces, all of which now go before the Supreme Court.
A decree nisi is a provisional decree in divorce proceedings, which will later be made absolute, unless cause is shown why it should not, while a decree absolute is the final decree in divorce proceedings, which leaves the parties free to remarry.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter