BVI Rules Change for Non-Contentious Probate Now in Force

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, 28 November 2017 — O’Neal Webster is pleased to report that the Eastern Caribbean Court has adopted new, comprehensive, non-contentious probate rules for the British Virgin Islands. The new rules, which came into force on 1 November 2017, replace decades-old rules that did not keep pace with the BVI’s growing reputation as a major financial centre and address important provisions which were absent.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Non-Contentious Probate and Administration of Estates) Rules 2017 (the Rules) include state-of-the-art provisions relating to fresh applications for grants of probate and letters of administration. The Rules also apply to applications for grants which were pending on the date the Rules came into force unless a judge or the registrar directs otherwise.

Prior to November 2017, the procedure for applying for grants of representation in the BVI was set out in rules which were implemented in the late 1980s, before the jurisdiction emerged as an international financial centre. The earlier rules were considered relatively basic and omitted to cover various scenarios. As a result, it was often necessary to have recourse to the English Probate Rules in circumstances where the BVI made no special provision for a particular matter. This meant that two sets of rules needed to be considered, and in some cases, the overlap gave rise to litigation.

New provisions, which had earlier been omitted, include:

  1. rules specifying who will be entitled to a grant in the (many) cases in which the deceased died domiciled outside the BVI;
  2. requirements which effectively confirm that an affidavit of foreign law will be required in those circumstances;
  3. rules specifying who will be entitled to the grant where the deceased died intestate;
  4. anti-abuse requirements to the effect that certified copies of the birth and marriage certificates of the applicant will need to be filed in circumstances in which the deceased died intestate, but not where the application is one for probate; and,
  5. numerous other provisions for which there were no equivalents in the earlier rules.

Relevant statutory forms required for filing an application for a grant of representation have also been appended, and the Court has substantially revised its fees for processing applications for grants of representation since earlier fees are now outdated.

Kerry Anderson, O’Neal Webster managing partner said that “this is a significant development for probate practice in the BVI and reflects the maturity of the BVI as the world’s leading jurisdiction in which to incorporate international business companies. The jurisdiction’s probate rules must be sufficiently comprehensive and appropriate to cover situations in which, as our companies age, shareholders will, regrettably but inevitably, pass away. These new Rules meet those requirements.”

The Rules were drawn up by the Court following recommendations previously made by the BVI Bar Association’s Probate Committee, which since its inception has been chaired by O’Neal Webster Partner Chris McKenzie. Past members of the Committee include partners Nadine Whyte, a former BVI Probate Registrar, and Vanessa King, current STEP BVI Chair. O’Neal Webster Associate Jenelle Archer also played an active role in the Committee’s detailed recommendations to the Court (many of which were adopted) as earlier drafts of the Rules were circulated.

About O’Neal Webster

With deep roots in the BVI, O’Neal Webster attorneys have significant experience navigating local governing bodies, courts, administrative offices, and enforcement regimes, ensuring clients receive prompt, trusted, and effective representation. They possess comprehensive knowledge of the jurisdiction and the business of the territory which enhances their ability to advise clients on new products and legislation. The firm works closely with the BVI Government and others in the development of the offshore finance and trust industries in the territory and holds a prominent role in the advisement and drafting of various aspects of BVI legislation.

O’Neal Webster’s legal practice is structured through five primary departments: Corporate and Commercial, which includes banking and finance; Investment Funds and Regulatory; Commercial Litigation and Insolvency; Property and Business, which includes real estate, admiralty, and shipping; and, BVI Trusts and Estates. Learn more at OnealWebster.com.

Media Contact
Kerry Anderson, Managing Partner
(284) 494 5808
managingpartner@onealwebster.com

O’Neal Webster
2nd Floor, Commerce House
181 Main Street
Road Town, Tortola
British Virgin Islands VG1110

O'Neal Webster is a leading offshore law firm in the British Virgin Islands providing superior legal services to clients globally. The firm is a member of Lex Mundi, the world's largest association of independent law firms.

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