Bona Vacantia is a Latin phrase which means vacant, ownerless goods. It therefore means that if there is no eligible relative the estate goes to the Crown.
The Role of the Administrator General’s Department in Bona Vacantia matters:
- Investigation to determine whether there are any surviving eligible relatives.
- Verification & confirmation of assets owned by the deceased.
- Investigation to determine liabilities.
- Obtaining Grant of Administration to deal with property, (no special privilege is given to this Department to deal with an estate on the premise that it will go to the Crown).
- When Grants of Administration are granted assets are collected, liabilities paid, lands transferred to the Commissioner of Lands and funds to the Consolidated Fund.
N.B. The Intestates Estates & Property Charges Act. (IEPCA 1937, 1988) however gives discretion to provide for persons who were dependent on the estate whether they are related or not to the deceased. These persons are referred to as Petitioners.
Petitioner: This is an individual who feels he/she has a moral right to the residue of the estate. This person can petition for a waiver of the Crown’s right in his or her favour.
Procedure for Petition
When the petitioner reports the death to our Department, he/she is informed of his/her rights and the procedure. The procedure for processing petitions from persons seeking waiver of the Crown’s Rights in their favour where persons have died intestate without lawful beneficiaries before November 1, 1996, is as follows:
- He/she is given a list of the documents he/she will need to prove failure of heirs.
Documents proving relationship:
- Birth certificate of the deceased
- Death certificate of the deceased
- If the deceased was married the death certificate of the spouse
- Death certificate of the deceased’s mother or two declarations stating that the deceased was never married and was survived by no lawful relatives.
With reference to the fourth document above and in view of 1988 amendment to section 2 of the Intestates’ Estates and Property Charges Act, “a spouse is a single person who has lived with the deceased for five (5) years prior to his/her death. Therefore both declarations should also state that the deceased never cohabited with anyone as if he/she were his/her husband/wife for a period of not less than five (5) years immediately preceding the date of his/her death.
N.B. This only applies to deaths after 1988.
- Proof of Identification of the Petitioner (Birth Certificate / Passport)
- Petitioner should retain an Attorney-at-Law to prepare the Petition.
- Petitions are sent to the Governor General through the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice. Upon receipt they are acknowledged and referred to the Administrator-General for status report on the matter and for the documents necessary to prove failure of heirs.
- Proof of ownership of assets - Conveyance, Certificate of Title, two Declarations of Ownership, Survey Diagram or Plan, Indenture and Vesting Assent.
- Affidavit in Support of the application, which should outline the grounds on which the application is being made.
- When the estate has no funds the Petitioner is informed that he/she will have to pay for administrative and legal costs.
- Petition is sent to the Ministry of Justice and a file opened by them and referred to this Department.
- Petitioner is to forward supporting documents to this Department.
- Two insertions of Advertisements will be placed in the daily Newspaper and run two weeks apart.
N.B. Once the advertisements have passed, persons may come forward who may be able to claim under the Rules of Intestacy. Also there may be multiple persons who may feel they are entitled to petition.
- Case Officer /Property Administrator to visit the deceased’s last place of residence and post notices at Parish Council, Churches, Post Offices and ask questions in order to verify statements given.
- Once the date of the advertisement passes all information is sent to the Director of State Proceedings at the Attorney General’s Department who determines if the Crown’s right is to be waived.
Please note: The Petitioner must establish his claim as the Administrator-General’s Department will neither prove nor disprove same. It is the Director of State Proceedings in the Attorney General’s Office who will consider the evidence of the Petitioner.
Waiver of Crown’s Right
If failure of heirs is proven an Instrument of Waiver is prepared and the Petitioner informed of the legal and administrative fees. Once these fees are paid transfer of realty can be effected to the successful Petitioner. Where there are monies in the estate this is also paid to the successful Petitioner.