Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 30, 2015 (SKNIS): The Honourable Vincent Byron, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Legal Affairs and Communications, said that the Administration of Small Estates Amendment Bill 2015 which was passed into law at the last sitting of the National Assembly On November 17, makes it more affordable to become a legal representative of a deceased person’s estate.
Minister Byron expressed concern that the public may have been distracted from critical issues raised during the sitting of Parliament by the behaviour of some parliamentarians.
Speaking specifically about the Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Bill 2015, while being guest on the Government’s weekly radio programme “Working for You”, the Attorney General explained that he was “surprised that it did not appear in mainstream media.”
“I’ve been somewhat taken aback that nobody has been discussing this and saying how critical and important it is to our people,” he said.
Explaining the importance of the bill, he noted that, “when someone dies, whatever he or she leave behind is part of his or her estate, so if you leave a house, a car, or if you leave money in a bank, it is the estate of, let’s say John Browne. John Browne’s estate needs a legal representative to be able to disburse, to distribute the estate’s assets. Therefore, someone has a mother or father (who) passed away and the parent’s account is in the person’s name, he (she) just can’t go to the bank and use it. You have to get legal documents appointing you as the representative.”
Attorney General Byron outlined two scenarios that may occur in the event of someone’s death saying, “people can prepare a will before they die saying “I would like to leave my house to my son,” so you probate the will. If you die without a will, that is called intestate, someone has to apply to the court under the Laws of Intestate because there is an administrative law that says how it can be done through a lawyer. This involves a number of documents and it can be an expensive process.”
Attorney General Byron revealed that this process may cost thousands of dollars and explained that because the sum considered to be a small estate before the November 17 amendment, was only five thousand dollars, persons for a long time had been losing their inheritance because they did not have enough money to pay a lawyer.
“Under the Labour Administration for the last twenty years, poor people were leaving their money in the bank when it was just over five thousand dollars. They could not get access to it. It made no sense to go to a lawyer to pay thousands of dollars. It was troublesome.”
According to the attorney general, the Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Bill 2015, provides for ordinary people who do not have much money on the bank, to access their inheritance “by going to the Court house and filling out a one page form at the cost of ten dollars to become the legal representative.” He further explained that “what this bill does is to increase the limit of the small estate from five thousand dollars to twenty five thousand.”
He explained that it is his view that the bill “is going to be very, very important to a lot of ordinary people around St. Kitts and Nevis,” further asserting that “as Team Unity, we are proud of this bill and we are working for you because this is one thing that would affect ordinary poor people in a very meaningful way.”
The Administration of Small Estates Act, Cap. 5.02 was amended in section 2 by replacing the definition of “small estates” to mean “all the property, real and personal, of a deceased person which does not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars in value.”