British Virgin Islands: Give Your Family A Lasting Act Of Kindness—Prepare Your Estate Plan Now

Creating a Last Will and Testament if you reside in the BVI is both good for you and your loved ones. Having a Will is the cornerstone of an estate plan and one of the most fundamental acts of kindness you can show toward those you care about. A Will not only puts your wishes to paper, it helps your heirs and beneficiaries avoid unnecessary hassles following a difficult loss, and may save them time and money. Having a Will is good for you, too. You will gain peace of mind knowing that a life's worth of possessions will end up in the right hands and that the appropriate person will be designated to settle your affairs and honor your wishes.

Yet, many adults delay or entirely avoid planning their estate and it is easy to understand why: Writing your Last Will and Testament is not the most pleasant of tasks, after all, you are not only acknowledging the inevitable, you are actively planning for it! Therefore, it may help to gain some basic understanding as you proceed.

When is the best time to prepare your Will and other estate documents?

It is never too early to plan your estate. Simply, estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during one's lifetime, for the proper disbursement of possessions. It can also ensure that your wishes regarding such things as health care directives are met should you become incapacitated, or that your dependents are cared for in the manner to which they are accustomed.

Having a Will and other estate planning documents prepared when you are first building your assets is equally as important as when they've grown. Regardless of how little you own or how insignificant in value you think your possessions are, your assets do not disappear upon death. Even if you only own one piece of jewelry or a bank account with a modest balance, someone will "legally" need to take care of their disposal. Therefore, now is always the best time to prepare your estate planning documents. You can always alter them should your circumstances change.

Getting Your House in Order

Some may choose to believe that death comes only to the aged, but the reality is that you should be ready for whenever that time comes. When I was a child, my mother would say that we should "always keep our house clean as we never know when someone will pop by unexpectedly for a visit." I am sure that death was not one of the 'visitors' that my mother contemplated, but the point she makes certainly applies. We want to ensure that our house is in order; that our dependants are taken care of financially; and that all of the wealth we have amassed, either modest or great, is passed on to those who we want to inherit from us.

Likewise, I heard someone joke that "if you want to be remembered or talked about after you die, borrow money from everyone you know and don't pay it back!" Joking aside, an estate plan is very important for ensuring that proper arrangements are in place to satisfy any debts that you may have. You do not want to leave others with added burdens during a time when they would much rather be honouring your memory. That is why you owe it to yourself and others to get your house in order.

Making Your Will is Easy!

A Will is the easiest way to detail all that you want to happen to your estate and who is to take charge and distribute it in accordance with your wishes. There is great value in making a Will, and the practical advantages are undeniable:

  1. I control what happens to my property after I die.
  2. I do not leave my legacy with the pitfalls that follow dying "intestate."

Intestate is the legal term for a person who dies without leaving instructions as to how their assets, or a specific asset, are to be distributed – essentially, dying without leaving a Will.  Where persons die intestate, not only are their assets in limbo, the law ultimately decides (not them, their family, or loved-ones) who controls their estate, who should benefit from it, and what portion each person should get. It is important to note that the dictates of the law often contradict the wishes of the deceased. And that is why you should prepare a Will. In the same way that you would not expect a stranger to know your favourite colour, you cannot rely on the law to know your wishes and distribute your estate accordingly. Download this diagram, which illustrates the path of intestacy in the BVI.

Can I change my Will?

Your circumstances and wishes may evolve over the course of your lifetime and your estate planning documents can, too. In fact, it is recommended to revisit your documents every few years, but especially following any life changing events such as marriage, childbirth, change in income, home purchases, divorce, inheritance, and the like. A good rule of thumb: Review your Will every two or three years to be safe.

It is possible that your Will or other estate planning documents may never need to be updated. Or, you may choose to update them regularly. The decision is yours. But know that the only version of your Will that matters is the most current one in existence at the time of your death—signed by you and witnessed by others—because it will need to be "proved," legally known as probate.

What is Probate?

The English noun "probate" derives directly from the Latin verb probare – to try, test, prove, examine. In law, probate is the legal process whereby a Will is proved in a court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. The granting of probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, which involves resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under a Will. But what happens if the deceased person does not have a will? Probate still applies.

Where there is no Will, the law dictates who is entitled to take out probate in your estate and the order of priority of those persons. This is why a Will is extremely beneficial. It will eliminate unpleasant procedures and unpredictable outcomes. For example, it may come as a surprise to learn that in the British Virgin Islands a grandchild has no right or legal standing to take out probate in his or her grandparent's estate—where no Will exists—unless they can show that their parent died before the grandparent. The practical implications of such scenarios can be unusually troublesome.

However, efforts are underway to review and reform the existing laws governing estate succession in the BVI. But until such laws are revised, it is critical that all adults make a Will in order to avoid the pitfalls of the imperfect laws that are currently in place.

Taking the First Step

Putting your wishes in writing is a smart approach to an unwelcome reality, but beyond that your Will must also be properly prepared and validated. Selecting experienced legal counsel is a good place to start. There are several things to consider when selecting that important partner, who will ideally be qualified to help you navigate estate planning and probate.

First, it is important that the attorney you choose is someone with whom you feel comfortable and can trust over the long term. Second, they should be able to carefully walk you through the process and uncover any unique requirements fairly quickly. Third, your attorney should be knowledgeable in probate matters to ensure continuity should anything out of the ordinary occur. It is not uncommon for a probate to be disputed and end up in litigation.

To illustrate, we have seen where land in a probate came under dispute and became unusable due to too many parties unable to form an agreement—some already dead, others not found. In such events, the risk of the Crown or squatters getting the land is a high probability. Therefore, you will want to know if your attorney is capable to handle such matters, or if not, ask if they have a relationship with a qualified probate "litigation" attorney. Select your counsel, wisely.

In conclusion, although surprisingly few persons bother to make a will or prepare estate planning documents, having an estate plan is good for you and for your loved ones. An estate plan provides peace of mind and will ease the burden on those left to probate an estate. Of course, no one really wants to think about death and dying, but passing intestate is a very unsettling and unwelcome reality. It is never too early to get started on your estate plan. Or, where you have previously validated documents, to review and revise them.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions