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Home > Probate Unit

The Probate Unit

The Registrar and the Deputy Registrars of the Supreme Court have legal power and authority to deal with all non-contentious applications for the grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

 The Probate Unit has responsibility for receiving, examining and processing of all non-contentious applications for the grant of Probate or Letters of Administration as provided by Rule 3 of the Supreme Court (Non-Contentious) Probate Rules, 1959

These Rules govern the procedure to be followed where a person who wishes to ensure that no grant is issued without notice to him. Such a person may enter a Caveat in order to bring a halt to further processing of the application in the Registry. A Caveat issued under the rules remains in force for a period of 6 months from the date it is entered unless otherwise provided by the Rules.

Where a Caveat is entered, the Rules provide that a person with an interest or a person claiming under a will may “Warn the Caveat” by issuance of a ‘Warning’ from the Registry in the prescribed form.

Rule 42  provides that following the issuance and service of a ‘Warning’, the person who lodged the Caveat may either:

(i) withdraw the Caveat by giving notice of such withdrawal to the Registry; or

(ii) if the person who lodged the Caveat has an interest contrary to that of the applicant, he may enter an “Appearance to Warning” in the prescribed form within 8 days and serve a copy of such entry of appearance on the person who issued the ‘Warning’; or

(iii) if though not having a contrary interest, the person who lodged the Caveat nonetheless wishes to show cause against the sealing of a grant to the applicant, he may issue and serve within 8 days, a “Summons for Directions” to bring the matter before a Judge of the High Court.

The issuance of an “Appearance to Warning” or a Summons for Directions under Rule 42 effectively results in the proceedings being regarded as contentious and the application for the grant of probate or administration will not proceed to completion in the Registry until the matter is resolved and the issues in dispute are finally decided by a Judge of the High Court.

Where the person who lodged the Caveat neither issues an “Appearance to Warning” nor files a “Summons for Directions” within the 8 day period specified in Rule 42, the applicant who issued the ‘Warning’ may file an affidavit containing the prescribed information at the Registry and the Caveat shall thereupon cease to exist. Compliance with this procedure effectively removes the Caveat and permits the application for the grant to proceed to completion before the Registrar as an uncontested application.

The Probate Unit is situated within the Supreme Court Registry on level 3 Barbados Supreme Court Complex, Whitepark Road, Bridgetown, Barbados.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of some frequently asked questions designed to assist the public’s understanding of the work of the Probate Unit and the situations in which proceedings may become contentious.

What is a Grant of Probate or a grant of Letters Testamentary ?

What is a Grant of Letters of Administration ?

Why is a Grant needed ?

How is a Grant obtained ?

How to apply for a Grant ?

How is the application processed?

What is  a Caveat?

In what sort of situations are Caveats entered?

 

What is a Grant of Probate or a grant of Letters Testamentary?

When a person dies leaving property, somebody has to deal with his or her estate (i.e. money property and possessions left behind) by collecting in all the money or property, paying any outstanding debts and distributing what is left to those persons entitled to it.

Where a person dies leaving a Will and names a person or persons to take charge of his estate following his death, the person or persons named in the Will (i.e. the executor(s)) are required by law to apply to the High Court for a grant of Probate (also known as a grant of Letters Testamentary).

A grant of Probate or Letters Testamentary is essentially an official document issued by the Supreme Court which signifies the conferral by the Court on a named executor(s) of legal authority enabling him or them to administer the deceased’s estate. The grant of Probate or Letters Testamentary is usually required by a bank or other third person holding the deceased’s money or property as proof of the executor(s) formal authority to administer the deceased’s estate.

What is a Grant of Letters of Administration?

When a person dies and leaves no will, the deceased’s next of kin or other persons entitled by law to a general grant in respect of the deceased’s estate may apply to the High Court for a grant of Letters of Administration.

A grant of Letters of Administration is the name given to the official document issued by the Court which signifies the conferral by the Court on a named administrator or named administrators of legal authority enabling him or them to administer the deceased’s estate. The grant of Letters of Administration is usually required by a bank or other third person holding the deceased’s money or property as proof of the administrator(s) formal authority to administer the deceased’s estate.

Why is a Grant needed?

A grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration to a deceased’s estate essentially operates to appoint persons (broadly known as personal representatives) to administer a deceased person’s estate under the authority of the Supreme Court.

A grant is needed:

  • to protect the interests of the estate and beneficiaries. Before releasing money or other assets owned by the deceased, those holding the assets (such as a commercial bank) need to know that they are dealing with someone who has the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs. The Grant provides that assurance;
  • to confirm that the Will made by the person who has died is valid (however, though very few cases arise, the validity of a Will remains open to challenge after Probate has been granted).

How is a Grant obtained?

A grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration to a deceased’s estate may be obtained:

  • By applying to the Registrar of the Supreme Court.  Applications may be made through an attorney-at-law or more rarely, personally.
  • A person’s entitlement to take a grant depends on the circumstances of the individual case, and is laid down by law. If the facts contained in the affidavit meet the legal requirements, a grant will be issued.
  • The requirements of the Estate Duty Act as to tax must be met.

How to apply for a Grant?

Applications are filed with the Probate Unit of the Supreme Court Registry usually through an Attorney-at-law who is familiar with the law and the procedures governing the administration of deceased estates. Around 95% of applications are made through an attorney-at-law.

The fee payable to the Registrar on application for a grant of Probate or Administration, and for the Resealing of Commonwealth Probates are set out in the Schedule to the Supreme Court Non-Contentious Probate Rules.

How is the application processed?

The processing of applications by the Supreme Court Registry (Probate Unit) will largely depend on the specific type of application which is being made. Very broadly, the following procedure will apply:

  • Notice of the intended application must be published in the local press;
  • The applicant completes the application in the prescribed form (whether for Probate (Form 1) or Administration (Form 4) and sends it to the Probate Unit together with the following:
    • The original will (if there is one).  The will must be clear and legible
    • An official copy of the death certificate
    • An affidavit in support of the application
    • An affidavit of attestation (where there is a will)
    • Affidavit of search; and
    • The appropriate fees.
  • Staff at the Probate Unit examine the application and will administer an oath to be sworn by the applicant(s) to swear.  As part of the application process an oath is sworn by the applicant that the information in the application is true to the best knowledge and belief of the applicant with the promise to deal with the estate as the law requires.
  • After advertisement of the application the Registrar examines the application to ensure that the facts contained in the application comply with the substantive and procedural requirements laid down by the various statutes.
  • A grant is issued to the applicant once the Registry is satisfied as to the validity of the application and that the legal and substantive requirements are met.

What is a Caveat?

A Caveat is a procedure to prevent a Grant issuing in an estate without notice to the person entering the Caveat.  It is advisable to seek legal advice before entering a Caveat. Such advice cannot be provided by the Probate Unit.  The Supreme Court Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1959 are available on this website.

In what sort of situations are Caveats entered?

It is not possible to give a comprehensive list; but these are a few typical examples:

  • there is some allegation concerning a Will (e.g. it is not the last Will; the deceased was not “of sound mind” when it was made; it was not properly signed and witnessed; it has been tampered with in some way);
  • there is dispute about whether a later Will exists;
  • the person intending to apply for a Grant may not be entitled to do so;
  • there are allegations that the person applying for the Grant is not a “fit and proper” person.

Staff of the Supreme Court Registry Probate Unit are unable to give advice to individual customers about whether to enter a Caveat, or as to what subsequent steps should be taken. They may advise customers generally as to what procedures are available to them, but cannot advise on the appropriateness of any of these. Should there be any doubt or should any advice be needed, it is recommended that an attorney-at-law be consulted.It is necessary to request a search of the Court’s records when seeking information regarding a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration or making a request for a copy of the Grant.  A copy of the application, a copy of the Grant and the date when the Grant was made will then be provided.