BVI Introduces Significant New Trust and Estate Legislation

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, March 2021– O’Neal Webster is pleased to confirm that the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Government has introduced a substantial number of changes to its trust and estate legislation following recommendations made by the Trust and Succession Law Review Committee of the BVI branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

The new legislation is set out in the following new statutes, each of which are expected to come into force shortly:

  • The Trustee (Amendment) Act, 2021
  • The Virgin Islands Special Trusts (Amendment) Act, 2021
  • The Probate (Resealing) Act, 2021
  • The Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Act, 2021
  • The Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2021

The Trustee (Amendment) Act, 2021 and the Virgin Islands Special Trusts (Amendment) Act, 2021

The recent Trustee (Amendment) Act builds on the earlier reforms to the original Trustee Act which were made in 1993, 2003 and 2013. Highlights of the Act’s amendments include: innovative new provisions relating to the variation of trusts; giving the court jurisdiction to set aside the flawed exercise of a fiduciary power; and strengthening the ‘firewall’ provisions in the Act. Additionally, it introduces reserved power legislation based on the laws of some of the BVI’s competitors, but with improvements.

A minor amendment to the BVI VISTA legislation has been made as a consequence of the new variation provisions.

For more detailed summaries of the relevant legislative provisions please click on the following links:

New Probate (Resealing) Act and Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Act

The pre-existing legislation relating to resealing foreign grants of probate and letters of administration in the BVI, which dated from the colonial period, was in clear need of reform. This, in general, only enabled grants issued by the courts of the United Kingdom or by territories which are regarded as belonging to the Crown (i.e. where the Queen is head of state) to be resealed in the BVI pursuant to a simplified procedure.

The list of jurisdictions from which grants of representation can be resealed has been substantially increased, so that grants issued by the vast majority of the jurisdictions to which the English Colonial Probates Act 1892 applies will be capable of being resealed in the BVI without any requirement (equivalent to that in the English statute) for reciprocity. The new Act thus enables Hong Kong (whether or not the grant was issued before 1 July 1997), Singapore and South African grants to be resealed in the Territory and actually goes further than the English Act in that it also applies to grants issued from India, each state of the United States of America and the Channel Islands.  An application to reseal such grant in the BVI must be made in accordance with the provisions of the BVI’s comprehensive new Probate Rules which came into effect in November 2017.

A more detailed summary of the new Resealing Act can be found by clicking on the following link:

Other amendments

In addition to the above reforms two new statutes, the Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2021 and the Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Act, 2021, have been enacted.

A brief summary of these legislative provisions can be found by clicking on this link:

These reforms clearly demonstrate that the BVI continues to lead the way in terms of keeping its financial services legislation under constant review and introducing innovative measures which its international clientele find attractive.

The Trust and Succession Law Review Committee of the BVI Branch of STEP is chaired by O’Neal Webster Partner Chris McKenzie and was formerly chaired by O’Neal Webster Managing Partner Vanessa King, who still serves on the Committee. Ms. King also chairs the BVI Branch of STEP and was recently elected as chair of STEP’s Caribbean and Latin America Region.

If you would like further information about these reforms, please contact your O’Neal Webster adviser.

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