A client emailed me this week with what I think is a very popular issue found in Caribbean jurisdictions. Many people fail to do any estate planning during their lifetime, and die leaving their estate unsettled. The client explained that his grandfather and grandmother together owned a piece of land and had the title deeds to prove it. His grandfather had always expressed that his only son, who is this client’s father, should inherit the land. However, his grandfather never transferred the title to his son during his lifetime, and now the grandfather is deceased. My client also explained that his father wants to give him the land. He is seeking legal advice as to the best approach to get this done. Below is my response.
First of all, if your grandparents are deceased and:
(i) they executed a Will before they died, and;
(ii) they had given the property to someone under the Will other than to your father or to you;
then there is no way to recover the property at this stage.
Assuming that your grandparents never left a Will, the advice which follows becomes relevant.
Based on the information you have provided, there are two options available to you to transfer the Deed into your name:
1. Deed of Gift
You indicated that the deed is in the names of both grandparents. If either of them is alive and both of your grandparents held the deed together as joint tenants, then the living grandparent may execute a deed of gift in your favour.
2. Administration of the Estate
If both your grandparents are deceased, and they never left a Will, then your father may apply to the Court to administrate the estate of your grandfather (or grandmother, as the case may be). Simply put, this is the process whereby the Court gives your father the authority to transfer the property into his name and then he deals with it in whatever way he deems fit. Note, however, that if your father has other siblings (whether dead or alive), the Administration must be done in their names as well.
Most of the work will need to be done by your father, and not necessarily you, since your father is the beneficiary of your grandfather’s estate.
As to taxes and fees, your father will have to ensure that all land taxes are paid up on the property. As to the amount of taxes that has to be paid, a check can be done at the Income Tax Department to determine the amount.
There are other prescribed of taxes/fees you and your father may have to pay but these will be dependent on which of the 2 options you select and the value of the property. Legal fees are also dependent on which of the 2 options you select and the value of the property.
All original copies of deeds are held in the Deeds Registry of St. Vincent, so if your father is unable to find his copy of the deed, we will be able to request another copy on your behalf.
If you have a question you would like answered, please let us know. Until next time, take care!