Wills and Grants of Administration in Trinidad and Tobago
The legislation in Trinidad and Tobago which applies to estate planning and administration are historically modelled on "old" United Kingdom legislation, and include, inter alia, the following statutes:
i. Administration of Estates Act, Chap. 9:01.
ii. Wills and Probate Act, Chap. 9:03.
iii. Trustee Ordinance, Chap. 8 No. 3.
In Trinidad and Tobago, for a will to be valid:
i. The person making the will ("testator") must have the mental and legal capacity to make the will.
ii. The will must be in writing.
iii. There must be clear intention to dispose of the property. If a testator is unduly influenced (coerced or pressured) or forced into making the will, a Court may set it aside. Similarly, a court may set aside a will if the execution was obtained by fraud or if the signature was forged.
iv. The will must be signed by or on behalf of the testator in the presence of two witnesses present at the same and attested to by the two witnesses in the presence of the testator and each other.
Grants of Representation
In order to administer the estate of a deceased person in Trinidad and Tobago one must first obtain the necessary grant of representation. These include the grant of Probate and the grant of Letters of Administration which are obtained on application to the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Trinidad and Tobago.
When a person dies having made a will leaving his or her property to named persons or organisations, an application for a grant of Probate must be made by the named executor to properly give effect to the gifts under that will. Documents required for a grant of Probate include:
i. an application for the grant made by an attorney-at-law (where the value of the estate exceeds TT$4,800.00);
ii. an affidavit of the executor(s), which must include inter alia the following information:
(a) the name(s), address(es), and occupation(s) of the executor(s);
(b) the name, address and occupation of the testator at the time of death and date and place of his/her death;
(c) a description of the will and other documents accompanying it, where applicable;
(d) the oath of the executor(s) to administer the estate honestly and fairly;
(e) a statement of the gross value of the estate.
iii. certified copy of the death certificate of the testator;
iv. original will of the testator;
v. affidavit of due execution sworn by one of the witnesses who was present and signed the will as a witness when the testator executed the will;
vi. inventory of assets of the testator and the value thereof at the date of death.
When a person dies intestate, that is to say not having made a will disposing of his or her property, an application for Letters of Administration must be made for the property to be distributed after the payment of all debts, duties and expenses, in accordance with the Administration of Estates Act, to the persons entitled to inherit which include: surviving spouse and/or surviving cohabitant and the testator's issue. Where there is no surviving spouse/cohabitant and no issue, the property is distributed to the next of kin according to a specified order.
The documents required for a grant of Letters of Administration are the same for a grant of Probate, save for the original will and affidavit of due execution, and all other details (save and except any reference to a will) to be provided in the affidavit would apply to the administrator.
Where the testator has made a valid will and has failed to name an executor or the named executor cannot or will not apply for Probate, the beneficiary(ies) in the will can apply for a grant of Letters of Administration with Will Annexed.
The application once filed is advertised once a week for a period of 2 weeks and once the documents are checked and approved, the grant is signed and issued, within 6 to 18 months from the date of filing. Special and/or limited grants of representation are also possible and can be applied for where justified on the facts of the relevant case.
Grants of representation are issued from the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Trinidad and Tobago only with reference to Trinidad and Tobago properties and reference to foreign assets will not be accepted in the inventory of the assets of the estate as submitted to the local registry.