INTESTACY: DYING WITHOUT A WILL
Q: What happens when someone dies without leaving a Will?
A: A person dies intestate when he/she does not leave a Will or leaves a Will that is later found to be invalid. The rules of Intestacy in Trinidad and Tobago are governed by the Administration of Estates Act, Sections 23 – 31 and The Distribution of Estates Act, 2000.
The estate (all possessions of the deceased) is divided according to the rules of Intestacy. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Parents, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews of the intestate person may inherit under the rules of intestacy, but this depends on a number of circumstances:
•whether there is a surviving married or civil partner
•whether there are children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
•in the case of nephews and nieces, whether the parent directly related to the person who has died is also dead
•the amount of the estate
Other relatives may a right to inherit if the person who died intestate had no surviving married partner or civil partner, children, grandchildren, great grand-children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces. The order of priority amongst other relatives is as follows:-
•uncles and aunts
The following people have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a will:
•lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership
•relations by marriage
23. An estate or interest to which a deceased person was entitled on his death in respect of which he dies intestate shall, after all payment of debts, duties, and expenses be distributed or held on trust amongst the same persons being kin or next of kin in accordance with sections 24, 25, 26 and 26A.
Married or civil partner
A married/civil partner may inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. So if you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy. However, partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.
24. (1) Where an intestate dies leaving a surviving spouse but no issue, his estate shall be distributed to or held on trust for the surviving spouse absolutely.
(2) Where an intestate dies leaving issue, but no spouse, his estate shall be distributed per stirpes among the issue. (each branch of the family must receive an EQUAL share of an estate)
(3) Where an intestate dies leaving a spouse and one child, the surviving spouse shall take one-half of the estate absolutely and the other half shall be distributed to or held on trust for the child.
(4) Where the intestate dies leaving a spouse and more than one child, the surviving spouse shall take one-half the estate absolutely and the remaining one-half shall be distributed to or held on trust for the children.
25. (1) Notwithstanding section 24, where an intestate dies leaving no surviving spouse, but dies leaving a surviving cohabitant, the cohabitant shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as if he or she were a surviving spouse of the intestate.
Separated from Legal Wife with a Co-habitant
(2) Notwithstanding section 24, where an intestate dies leaving a spouse and a cohabitant and the intestate and his spouse were at the time of his death living separate and apart from one another, only such part of the estate as was acquired during the period of cohabitation shall be distributed to the cohabitant, subject to the rights of a surviving spouse and any issue of the intestate.
(3) A surviving cohabitant claiming a share of the estate of an intestate under this section shall, within twenty-eight days of the death of the intestate, file with the Registrar of the Supreme Court a notification of interest as the surviving cohabitant and, within three months thereafter or such other time as the Court considers appropriate having regard to all the circumstances, obtain an order from the Court affirming the cohabitational relationship with the intestate and stating the quantum of the share of the estate to which the cohabitant is entitled.
(4) The Rules Committee shall make Rules for matters arising under this section.
If no one else; Parents.
26. Where an intestate leaves no spouse, no cohabitant or no issue, the estate goes to the parents of the intestate in equal shares or the survivor of them.
26A. Where the intestate leaves no spouse, no issue, no cohabitant and no parent, then his estate shall be distributed to or held on trust for his next of kin living at the time of his death in the following order and manner:
(a) to the brothers and sisters of the whole blood in equal shares;
(b) where there are no brothers or sisters of the whole blood, to the brothers and sisters of the half blood in equal shares;
(c) where there are no brothers and sisters of the whole or half blood to the grandparents of the intestate in equal shares;
(d) where there are no grandparents to the issue of the brothers and sisters of the whole blood;
(e) where there is no issue of the brothers and sisters of the whole blood to the issue of the brothers and sisters of the half blood; and
(f) where there is no issue of the brothers and sisters of the half blood to the uncles and aunts of the intestate, being brothers and sisters of the whole blood and then of the half blood of a parent of the intestate.
26B. Descendants and relatives of the intestate, conceived before his death but born afterwards, inherit as if they had been born in his lifetime and had survived him.
If all else fails
26C. In default of any person taking an absolute interest under the foregoing provisions, the estate of the intestate belongs to the State as bona vacantia. (Goods with no owner)
The State will then follow the procedures set out on Sections 27 – 31.
Extracted From: Trinidad & Tobago Legal Rights.blogspot