- The Administrator-General’s (Amendment) Bill, which aims to speed up the estate administration process in Jamaica, was passed, with two amendments, in the Senate on Friday, April 10.
- The Bill seeks to amend the Administrator-General’s Act to establish a framework for the Administrator-General (AG) to efficiently administer multi-generational estates and intestate estates (where the owner dies without leaving a valid will) involving minors.
- The Bill also empowers the Administrator-General to transfer properties to secondary beneficiaries, as long as they are able to prove their relationship to the deceased owner.
The Administrator-General’s (Amendment) Bill, which aims to speed up the estate administration process in Jamaica, was passed, with two amendments, in the Senate on Friday, April 10.
The Bill seeks to amend the Administrator-General’s Act to establish a framework for the Administrator-General (AG) to efficiently administer multi-generational estates and intestate estates (where the owner dies without leaving a valid will) involving minors.
The Bill also empowers the Administrator-General to transfer properties to secondary beneficiaries, as long as they are able to prove their relationship to the deceased owner.
This piece of legislation is also expected to assist in clearing the backlog of estate matters at the AG’s Department. Additionally, it is expected to effect far reaching changes pertaining to how persons can inherit land, and benefit from the Government’s land titling programme.
Opening the debate in the Upper House, Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, said the Bill represents the most significant reform of the law of probate and administration of estates undertaken in Jamaica in over 160 years, adding that it is “long overdue.”
“The Bill has the potential to transform the lives of many families who have been adversely affected by the antiquated and cumbersome legal arrangements in this area, and to release to the rightful owners, productive assets that have been tied up in a legal morass for decades,” he said.
Senator Golding said the Bill is specifically tailored to address the particular socio-economic realities of Jamaica and how these impact the transference of property, from one generation to the next.
He further noted that the legislation will also greatly expedite the process of administering estates of persons who die without leaving a will and who have beneficiaries under 18 years, by significantly reducing the burden on the probate division of the Supreme Court and on the Resident Magistrate’s Court.
The Senator informed that the amendments to the Act resulted from collaboration between the government and private bar, “and is responsive to many of the difficulties being experienced by probate law practitioners, including the Administrator-General, in their efforts to administer deceased’s estates in a timely way.”
In supporting the Bill, Opposition Senator, Marlene Malahoo-Forte, concurred that the legislation “will go a very long way in dealing with some of the problems that exist in the administration of estates”.
While welcoming the provision relating to multi-generational estates, she expressed concern about the time frame of 25 years, pertaining to those matters.
“Perhaps 20 years would be a good compromise… just to ensure that the estates that have been pending can be dealt with a little more quickly,” she said.
Opposition Senator, Robert Montague, who also rose in support of the Bill, thanked the Justice Minister for “moving forward in bringing these historic amendments to the fore.”
Another Opposition member, Dr. Christopher Tufton, who also supported Bill, said it was long in coming. He said according to the Administrator-General’s office, persons or estates to be administered have languished for as long as 70 years.
“The value of these estates approximates somewhere around $2 billion. That’s a fair bit of resources that could be used for one reason or another for economic empowerment. And it is reason to support this Bill and to get it passed and acted on as quickly as possible (not only) for the benefit of those directly involved, but also, generally, for the economy,” he said.
Government Senator, Sophia Fraser-Binns, also voiced her approval, noting that the Bill’s passage will not only empower to the Administrator-General, thereby allowing her to dispose of estates faster, “but what it does is for the first time (is), it pays attention to generational land”.
“(This) will loosen the noose around land ownership, thereby freeing up estates and impacting on the economy and the social aspect of life,” she said.