O’Neal Webster is pleased to be able to advise that, in addition to other ground-breaking changes to its trust and succession laws, which are covered elsewhere, two new statutes, the Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 2001 and the Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Act, 2001 have come into effect. These two statutes, which came into force on 9 July 2021, have made a number of what – might perhaps be regarded – as less significant changes to BVI law.
The Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2021
The new Property Miscellaneous Provisions Act, consistently with the spirit of the Status of Children Act, 2014, abolishes (to the extent that it actually still exists) an ancient English rule of public policy which created impediments where dispositions in favour of those born out of wedlock were intended. The archaic English rule was one to the effect that provisions in trust instruments and wills which expressly provide for relatives born out of wedlock are void as being contrary to public policy. The rule clearly had no place in the twenty-first century and had to go.
The Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Act, 2021
The Administration of Small Estates (Amendment) Act implements a long overdue increase in the qualifying value for the Administration of Small Estates Act. The latter sets out in it a very simple procedure for applying for a grant of probate or letters of administration in the BVI where the value of the estate is low. The threshold set out in the statute, which had not been amended since it came into force in colonial times, appears to be increased from US $240 to US $25,000, but (in the case of applications for letters of administration rather than those for probate) the statute will only now be applicable if the deceased died domiciled in the BVI: this should provide an incentive for non-BVI domiciliaries to prepare wills.
The reforms have been made at the recommendation of the Trust and Succession Law Review Committee of the BVI Branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) which 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. Vanessa is also chair of the BVI Branch of STEP and was recently elected as chair of STEP’s Caribbean and Latin America Regional Committee.
If you would like any further information about these reforms, please contact Chris Mckenzie or your O’Neal Webster adviser.