A REGULAR READER writes to find out when the Administrator-General's Department can intervene in a matter.
Many Jamaicans make contact with the Administrator-General's Department upon being faced with a situation where a family member or close friend dies without leaving a will and especially where the deceased had children who are minors. The operation of the Administrator-General's Department is governed by the Administrator-General's Act (hereinafter called the 'the Act'.) A fit and proper person is usually appointed as the Administrator-General.
Generally, the Administrator-General is entitled to apply for Letters of Administration to the estate of all persons who die without a will and without leaving a widower, widow, brother, sister or any lineal ancestor or any relative.
Section 12 of the Act provides that where there is no executor named in a will, where the named executor will not or cannot act, or where no relative applies for Letters of Administration within three months or within such other period as the court may direct, the Administrator-General shall apply for Letters of Administration. It is also important to note that where there is an estate of persons who die leaving a will but no executor or no executor who will act, the Administrator-General shall be entitled to apply for letters of administration. However, the Administrator-General is not obliged to act where there is provision in law for the estate or where the total value of the personal property does not exceed $5,000.00, although he may choose to do so.
On the other hand, the Act provides that where there are no minor beneficiaries or there are adult beneficiaries entitled to obtain letters of administration and there is a dispute as to which of them should act, then the Administrator- General may write to the persons, directing them that they may apply to the Court for an order naming them or a third party as the persons to apply for the Letters of Administration.
Further, even where the Letters of Administration have not been applied for or granted by the Administrator-General and it appears that he would be or is entitled to administer the estate and the property is likely to be damaged or decrease in value due to the lack of a proper person to take control of the property, the Supreme Court may direct the Administrator-General to take possession of the premises on such conditions as the court may think fit until the Letters of Administration have been granted to the Administrator.
Therefore, where a person finds that a person has died in whom they have some legal interest and the deceased has left no will, or where there is a will, no executor has been named, or the executor cannot or refuses to act, then the interested person should first consider approaching the Administrator- General's Department to seek advice with a view to obtaining Letters of Administrations so that the property can be properly dealt with.
Keith Bishop is an Attorney-at-Law and Partner in the firm of Bishop & Fullerton.