To administer the estate of a person who dies without a will, you must obtain letters of administration from the court. Someone who dies without making a will or dies with a will in place that is not valid under Bahamian law has died “intestate”. Since a person who dies intestate has not appointed an executor to oversee their affairs, family or friends must go to the court to request a determination of how the deceased person's estate should be distributed. This request takes the form of an application for letters of administration.
Applications for letters of administration require many of the same documents as applications for probate, discussed in a previous blog. An application relating to the estate of a person who died intestate asks the court to appoint either the applicant or some other person to the position of administrator of the deceased person's estate. Again, since the deceased person did not choose an executor, the court must choose someone to administer the estate.
When the court considers the application, it may grant the applicant's request to administer the estate. If so, the applicant must post a bond in the amount of double the estate's value. Instead of granting the request, the court may decide that someone else should be the estate's administrator, or it may divide responsibilities. The Probate and Administration of Estates Act permits the court to appoint one person to oversee the deceased person's real estate and a different person to oversee the deceased person's personal estate.
After the court selects an administrator or administrators, these people will be issued letters of administration. The letters explain that they have authority to act on behalf of the deceased person's estate. The administrator can show these letters to banks, creditors, and others to establish the administrator's authority. He or she will need these letters in part to prepare a return describing the value of the deceased person's personal estate and assets, which must be completed within six to nine months of appointment, depending on the estate's location.
The estate administrator acts very similarly to an executor, but the difference is the lack of a will explaining the deceased person's wishes. Instead, after the estate is appraised and valued, the court will order distribution according to The Bahamas' intestate succession rules. These rules are discussed in a previous blog.
To find out more about Bahamian laws on the administration of estates, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.