A will is a legal document that explains in writing how a person wants his assets to be distributed after his death. There are specific requirements for a will to be legally valid. It must be in writing and signed by the person making it, it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, and it must appoint an executor of sound mind and over the age of eighteen. If someone dies without making a will or his will does not meet the above requirements, his assets will be distributed according to the inheritance laws of The Bahamas.
Dying without a will is also called dying intestate. If an intestate person leaves behind a living spouse, the spouse will receive all of the estate's assets. If the intestate person has a spouse and a child or children, the spouse receives half of the estate and the children share the other half equally. The estate of an intestate person with no spouse but living children goes to the children in equal shares. Without a spouse or living children, the estate passes to any grandchildren. If there are no grandchildren, the parents of the intestate person receive the estate assets. The Inheritance Act explains what will happen in other family scenarios that may arise.
Due to these inheritance rules, surviving relatives may learn that they own a fifty percent interest in a piece of property that they do not need or want. An owner may arrange for a buyout or may apply to the court for relief if another owner's occupation of the property adversely affects their interest.
The Inheritance Act does not permit stepchildren to inherit unless they are formally adopted. Any children born outside a marriage who seek to inherit would need to provide proof of paternity or maternity, such as a birth certificate. Sometimes, the court may allow other evidence of the relationship in considering whether a child born to an unmarried mother and father should inherit from either parent.
The Act also does not recognize common law marriage. Many people in common law relationships own assets jointly. The surviving person would be entitled to ownership of those assets, but not any assets owned solely by the deceased person.
To avoid application of the inheritance laws and to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death, make a will and update it after major life changes such as the deaths of family members or your executor, divorce, remarriage, or the birth of children.
To find out more about inheritance laws and making a will, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.