When a relative or friend dies, one of the hardest tasks can be settling the estate. Figuring out who inherits which assets and in what amounts is part of the probate process in The Bahamas and is managed by the court.
People who die with valid wills in place rely on the executor(s) of their wills to file an application for grant of probate with the court. The application is made to the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of The Bahamas in the executor's personal capacity. It asks the court to admit the will to probate and oversee distribution of property to the deceased person's heirs. As part of filing the application, the executor will need to locate all property owned by the deceased person. The executor should initiate probate within one year of the deceased person's passing, if at all possible. See Probate and Administration of Estates Rules, 2011, Rule 6.
As part of the application, the executor should file the following items: a petition; an oath for an executor with an attachment listing all the property that the deceased person owned; an original of the will and two copies signed by one of the witnesses to the will; an affidavit from one of the witnesses; an original or certified copy of the death certificate; a bond; and a valuation of all the deceased person's property. For people who died in a foreign country, the executor should provide two originals or certified copies of the death certificate.
Once all papers in support of the application for a grant of probate have been filed with the court and the time mentioned in any public notice has expired without any objections being raised, a judge of the Supreme Court will, a judge of the Supreme Court will sign the grant of probate. Probate and Administration of Estates Rules, Rule 20. Other costs of probate include a minimum legal fee of $2,500 to an attorney who drafts and files the application.
It usually takes several months for the court to grant probate of a valid will. The court cannot grant probate within fourteen days from the deceased person's passing unless the executor or an interested party makes an application to the court demonstrating real urgency. While the probate application is pending, the executor is expected to manage and care for the deceased person's estate to maintain assets' value.
For people who die without wills, family or friends usually may file an application for letters of administration. This topic will be addressed in a later blog.
To find out more about the probate process, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.