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 Death, Property Left Behind, The Probate Registry

Death, Property Left Behind, The Probate Registry

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By Neela Ramsundar

WHEN someone dies leaving property behind, this property is called their “estate.”

The estate would need to be distributed to its new owners whether they are beneficiaries under a Will or under the laws of intestacy (a situation where someone dies without having made a Will).

The paperwork to have someone appointed to act for the estate (so they can distribute it) is filed and processed in the Probate Registry of the High Court. The document they ultimately get as proof that they are appointed to act for the estate is called a Grant of Representation. This can be a Grant of Probate (where the deceased died leaving a Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (when the deceased did not have a Will).

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In recent months, the judiciary overhauled the operations of the Probate Section, supposedly to afford greater protection to the staff and public against Covid-19.

Before the implementation of these changes, the Probate Section was notorious for delay and inefficiency. Whether the new changes are for good or worse, time will tell.

I’ll give a short, simple synopsis of the general procedure before the pandemic and now.

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Note – By law, all grants of representation for estates with a value over $4,800 are applied for via an Attorney at Law. This has not changed.

Pre-Covid-19

A search is done to make sure no one else has applied for the estate and that there is no Will deposited within the Probate Registry. The signed and stamped Search is collected and added to the paperwork for the application.

Then the law clerk takes the application to the Board of Inland Revenue to get the Will duty (a tax of up to $500) paid. She gets a TR number and can go to the Probate Registry to file the application. Once at the Probate Registry, she takes a chit and waits for her number to be called. It may take hours or she may have to return and try again the next day, depending on how many persons turn up to be attended to.

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When the application is filed, if there are no queries, the application is advertised in a daily newspaper and the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette. If there are queries, it was possible to meet with a clerk of the Probate Registry to discuss what exactly was needed to answer the queries, as unclear queries were quite common. After advertisement, if there are no objections, the grant of representation applied for is then issued. Generally, applicants had to wait anywhere between 6 months to 2 years for the process to be completed.

The new procedures

The judiciary introduced electronic searches, which has been efficient and works great. Applications for Searches are made online and the results come back electronically in less than a week. The printed version is signed by the Attorney and used as part of the application.

When the attorney completes the paperwork for the application, the law clerk takes it to get the Will Duty paid and to obtain the receipt with the TR number. Then the application is lodged online on the judiciary’s e-services platform, as a single PDF document, for vetting by the Probate Registry. The Registry will take approximately 1 – 3 weeks to respond, letting you know if there are any queries to be remedied.

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After remedying the queries, the application is electronically filed, again as a PDF document, and will be checked again. The attorney then waits to be informed by email if there are any additional queries to be answered. If not, an email will be received notifying the Attorney of an appointment to physically attend the Probate Registry to file the original application. The attorney must also drop off a pre-paid, self-addressed, legal-sized TTPOST TrackPak, so the Probate Registry can post out the grant of representation to the Attorney’s office when it is finalised.

The new system has flaws, but that is a commentary for another day. I do hope and pray this new system improves efficiency, so that the stress and anxiety experienced by applicants waiting months or years for their grant (through no fault of their Attorney), becomes a thing of the past. Be safe Trinidad and Tobago.

Copyright © 2021 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is aCivil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informative purposes only. It does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. For legal advice on your specific situation, please contact an Attorney-at-Law of your choosing directly. Liability for any loss or damage of any kind whatsoever allegedly incurred a consequence of using content in this article is thus hereby excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.

1 Comment

  • I have been waiting for more than 5years for documents from attorney general about our property….assistance would be appreciated

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