15 November, 2009


Probates.  Last Tuesday, the Anguilla Legal Aid Clinic had the privilege of having two experienced lawyers speak about problems that arise in Anguilla over the administration of estates.   One of them was Ms Jean Dyer.  She spoke from the point of view of a private legal practitioner.  She explained that attorneys can assist families in two ways.  Where the estate is small and simple, it may be necessary to seek legal assistance only with preparing the forms leading up to the application to the court for a Grant of Probate or of Letters of Administration.  Where the estate is more complicated, it might be advisable to seek advice on the administration of the estate. 
Ms Dyer explained the process and typical problems that arise both with Letters of Administration and with Probates.  She spoke about the particular issue of family land, where the deceased died before 11 December 1945, without a Will.  Administrators who are not properly legally advised may believe that they can simply divide the land up among the children in equal shares.  That may be true for estates that arose after December 1945.  But, it is not true for estates that arose prior to that date.  Depending on the date of the death of the deceased, there will be different persons who became the heirs of the deceased. 
Ms Dyer explained that the Personal Representative who is not legally represented risks dividing up the estate in a way that is not according to law.  Problems arise when the Personal Representative does not account to the heirs.  Sometimes, Personal Representatives pay themselves out of the estate for their work.  Sometimes, they administer the estate in secret, without sharing information with the heirs.  They do not always understand the importance of putting family arrangements in writing.  That is where the assistance of an attorney can be invaluable.  There is some cost up front, but it saves the estate and the Administrator from major expenses later on.
The forum, which ended at 9:00pm, was part of an ongoing series of Tuesday evening public forums being held throughout the month of November in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Anguilla Legal Aid Clinic. 
The topic for discussion next Tuesday 17 November is Proposals to Reform Family Law in Anguilla.  The presenters will be Ms Kiesha Gumbs, Social Development Planner, and Ms Navine Kissob, attorney at law.  All interested members of the public are invited to attend and to participate.
The Anguilla Legal Aid Clinic is a free service provided by the Department of Social Administration.  The clinic is held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Interested persons may telephone 497 2317 to make an appointment.

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