Probate can be initiated when 1) a person dies and doesn't leave a will; 2) there are surviving family members that are possible beneficiaries; 3) a person dies but doesn't have any beneficiaries to inherit his property; or 4) the appointed executors are deceased. To represent the estate of the deceased as an executor, you must first obtain a granting of Letters of Administration from Resident Magistrate's Court. Disputes regarding the decedent's will are handled in the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica.
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Things you need
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Death certificate (of decedent)
Check the Island Record Office (which is part of the Registrar General's Department) to make sure there is no prior will filed. To proceed with Probate, the decedent must have died without a will.
Obtain a death certificate directly from the Registrar General's Department. A notarised copy or a copy signed by the Justice of the Peace is not acceptable for probate matters. The certified death certificate is then filed with the Administrator General's department.
Gather marriage certificates, birth certificates and death certificates of all the persons who want to be named beneficiaries of the decedent. These original documents can be obtained through the Registrar General's department.
Prove your relationship to the deceased if you are a common-law widow/widower. You must present a Declaration from the Family Court of the Supreme Court. If widowed, you must not have been legally married to someone else at the time of the common-law marriage and must have lived as husband and wife, as well as cohabitated, a minimum of five years prior to the common-law spouse's death.
Verify your paternity with a Declaration from the Family Court of the Supreme Court if you were born out of wedlock without a father's name on your birth certificate. Elder witnesses can verify that the paternity was known and established while the decedent was still alive.
Search for a probate solicitor after being named Executor of the decedent's estate. The executor represents the estate of the decedent and has a list of the decedent's beneficiaries. The solicitor will present the entire matter to the Administrator General's office, who will decide the matters regarding the estate, including property distribution.
Tips and warnings
- If the decedent is your grandparent, you should obtain your parents' death certificates and your birth certificate before proceeding to probate.
- Make copies of the original documents for your legal file at your lawyer's office. Keep the original documents with your other important papers.
- Keep in contact with the executor so that you will always know the status of the probate procedures.
- Only those persons that have a right to claim a valid legal relationship to the decedent can lawfully become involved in the probate process.
- Wait until the probate has been decided before taking property from the decedent's estate. You may be ordered to return the property to the guardianship of the executor to be distributed to another beneficiary.
- If you are a beneficiary, you will have to allow the executor to present the matter for probate.
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