Making a Will Won’t Kill You

Why Shareholders of BVI Companies and the Owners of BVI Real Property Should Consider Executing Wills

Many people tend to put off the preparation of a will to a future date, but there are numerous reasons to grab the bull by the horns, not least because having an up-to-date will often tends to give people peace of mind, knowing that their affairs are in order and that their loved ones will be taken care of.  These are some of the reasons why the preparation of a will should be considered sooner rather than later:

  • An appropriately drawn up will should, in most cases, enable the owner of the BVI property, such as shares or land, to select who inherits it rather than leaving this to be determined by ‘one size fits all’ provisions in the relevant intestacy laws. The latter will in most cases probably not reflect precisely how the owner wishes his or her assets to be disposed of following death. Executing a will is especially important if you have children or others who are financially dependent on you or if you want to leave assets to those other than immediate family members.
  • A will makes it easier for your family, friends and advisers to sort out everything after you die: without a will this process can be more time-consuming and stressful.
  • A will enables a share or property owner to select appropriate personal representatives to manage his or her estate and distribute the BVI assets to the intended beneficiary. If a will is not executed the question of who administers the estate will be determined by the default provisions of the relevant intestacy laws which might provide for this office to be filled by someone whom you would not yourself have selected.
  • A will enables the entitlement of minor beneficiaries to be postponed beyond the age of majority (typically 18) so that those concerned do not automatically become entitled to valuable property at an inappropriately young age. Inheriting property when too young can sometimes result in those concerned foregoing other life opportunities such as tertiary education or can lead them to pursuing wayward lifestyles or becoming susceptible to the influences of gold diggers.
  • An appropriately drawn up will can provide protection from the claims of beneficiaries’ creditors and from matrimonial claims against family members.
  • Those who have unmarried partners or those who (or who are married to those who) have second families are generally advised to execute wills so that the interests of their partners can be accommodated and so that various competing interests of each of the families can be appropriately balanced.
  • It is generally considered imperative that those with loved ones who are regarded as being vulnerable (for example as a result of physical or mental infirmity) should execute appropriately drawn-up wills so that the interests of their loved ones can be protected.
  • Although there is no inheritance or gift tax or estate duty in the BVI, in appropriate circumstances wills can be drawn up so as to mitigate the impact of taxation in other jurisdictions.
  • You can name guardians to look after your children if you die whilst they are still under age.  

These are just some of the reasons why those with valuable BVI assets should consider executing wills. Other options are available if the owner of BVI assets such as shares or property wishes to avoid the cost, potential exposure to publicity and delay involved in making a probate application and if you are interested in considering these other options you should speak to your O’Neal Webster adviser for assistance.

Reasons to Review Your Will

A will’s terms can, as a general rule, be changed at any time before the testator – the maker of the will – passes away.  Once you have executed your will you are indeed best advised to consider periodically whether or not to update the document’s terms in view of changed circumstances.  The following comprises a list of some of the reasons why a will should be reviewed:

  • Changed family circumstances

A will’s terms might need to be overhauled or fine-tuned should the owner of BVI property get married or divorced or on the birth or death of children, grandchildren or others. It might also need to be revised if the intended beneficiaries’ or executors’ circumstances change – for instance if they lose capacity, are getting divorced, have creditors’ claims against them or become susceptible to the influence of others. Alternatively the testator – a person who makes the will – may fall out with certain family members.

  • Changes to your wishes

Changed circumstances can mean that you no longer feel quite the same way about how your assets are divided up as you felt when your existing will was drawn up.

  • Changes to your assets

If the assets in your BVI estate are different from those which you held at the time of your will’s preparation (or if they become significantly more or less valuable), you should consider whether your will’s current terms are still appropriate.

  • Changes to tax laws in your home jurisdiction  

Tax laws are changing, constantly. Any changes to the relevant tax laws in other jurisdictions should be considered in the context of your will.

We at O’Neal Webster have significant experience in terms of preparing BVI wills and should be very pleased to assist you. 

Christopher McKenzie, Partner – BVI Trusts & Estates/Private Client O’NEAL WEBSTER (UK) LLP
2 John StreetLondon WC1N 2ES
+44(0)203 405 4279 (office) +44(0)783 702 5118 (cell) 

Vanessa King, Managing Partner – Trusts, Banking and Finance, Corporate and Commercial, Intellectual Property
O’NEAL WEBSTER
Commerce House 
181 Main Street, Road Town, Tortola
British Virgin Islands VG 1110
Tel: (284) 393 5800  E-mail:vking@onealwebster.com

Jenelle Archer, Managing Associate & Head, Property and Business
O’NEAL WEBSTER
Commerce House
181 Main Street Road Town, Tortola 
British Virgin Islands VG 1110
Tel: (284) 393 5800 ext 249 Dir: (284) 393 5807
E-mail:JArcher@onealwebster.com

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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