When a loved family member dies, it is always a trying period for the relatives. This process is even more stressful when that relative dies without a will or a trust, legally known as dying “intestate”.
It is an unfortunate reality that in circumstances such as these, there will be a degree of uncertainty, anxiety and sometimes even conflict when relatives try to determine who should inherit from a relative that dies intestate. The order of entitlement of an estate is also known as the succession.
The Civil Code of Saint Lucia Cap 4.01 of the Revised Laws of Saint Lucia, 2001 (“the Civil Code”) outlines the different orders of succession. The provisions are however largely complex and confusing.
In order to lend some clarity to the issues I will outline a few of the variations on the rules of successions as follows:
Please note however, that pursuant to Article 567C of the Civil Code, in order for a spouse to inherit from their deceased spouse under 2 and 3 above, they must first abandon their rights in any community of property that may have existed between them and the deceased while the other was alive, as well as all rights of survivorship accruing to them under the marriage contract or by law.
These scenarios are non-exhaustive and there is a myriad of other possibilities which are covered by the laws of intestacy of Saint Lucia.
It is very important to note that the laws of Saint Lucia define a single man as a man who has never been married. Therefore, divorced men are not single men for the purposes of succession in Saint Lucia. However, a “single woman” includes a widow, a married woman living apart and separated from her husband and also a divorced woman.
It is also critical to note that the term “issue” refers only to children who are legitimate. Therefore, the only children who are capable of inheriting from their fathers under the law of intestacy in Saint Lucia are legitimate children or children who are born to a man who has never been married.
These requirements have the effect of excluding children who are born, illegitimate, to fathers who are married or become married after the birth of the child.
It is clear that the social realities of Saint Lucia are such that many children may find themselves unable to inherit from their father’s estate under the laws of intestacy.
In order to inherit from a relative that dies intestate, the deceased’s estate must be administered. This is only achievable when the Court grants what is known as “Letters of Administration”. Letters of Administration entitle the person who applied for and was granted same, the power to divide and share the deceased’s estate according to the established rules of intestacy outlined in the Civil Code of Saint Lucia.
The procedure for applying for Letters of Administration is largely governed by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Non-Contentious Probate and Administration of Estates) Rules 2017 (“the Probate Rules”). The Probate Rules came in to force in Saint Lucia in October 2017.
Rule 6 of the Probate Rules provides that an application for Letters of Administration may be made through an attorney-at-law or by a proposed administrator in person.
There is a ranking priority of persons entitled to apply for Letters of Administration pursuant to Rule 14(3) of the Probate Rules. The ranking is as follows:
Rule 13(1) of the Probate Rules provides that an applicant for Letters of Administration must file the following documents:
Rule 13(2) of the Probate Rules further indicates that a person applying for a grant of Letters of Administration —
Applying for Letters of Administration can be a lengthy and involved process and as such, it is a process that may be best carried out by a legal practitioner.
Given all of the aforesaid, it is perhaps in the best interests of all persons to make a Will or to form a Trust to provide for the administration of their Estate upon their death. In the interests of brevity, we will concisely outline the different forms a will may take in St. Lucia.
Wills may be undertaken in Saint Lucia in three (3) forms:
It is therefore clear that making a Will allows the testator to dispose of their estate in precisely the way that they intend, nullifying the uncertainty, anguish and confusion that often accompanies the process of dealing with the estate of a deceased person who dies intestate.
As such, making a Will would allow the deceased to truly rest in peace, knowing that they have provided for their children, legitimate or illegitimate, or any other person that they so please, after their passing.
In my humble view, given the unpredictable nature of life and the many issues associated with administering an estate of a person who dies intestate, every person, of any age, should make a will or form a trust.
Peter A. H. Marshall is an Associate at Fosters where he enjoys a varied practice which spans Commercial Law, Civil Litigation, Administrative Law, Conveyancing, Wills and Probate and Employment Law.