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Key questions: Jersey Wills for foreign domiciled persons

08/01/2019 Will Sidery

Julie Melia, a partner at Ogier, answers some of the key questions asked by people who are not domiciled in Jersey, but who hold assets there and are concerned about how these will be distributed following their death.

Do I need a will to cover my Jersey assets?

Julie Melia: If you only have one will covering your worldwide estate, the usual procedure is for this to be admitted to Probate, or the equivalent procedure, in the Court of your country of domicile first.

This is in fact a requirement of the Jersey Court if there are assets in the domicile country which require administering.  The document issued by the Court in the country of domicile will then need to be used to obtain the Jersey Grant. This can all take time and add to the cost of the overall estate administration.  If you have a separate Jersey will covering your Jersey assets, this will can be admitted to Probate in Jersey without being reliant on a document being issued in another jurisdiction, making the administration of the Jersey estate much more efficient.  This can assist with the payment of debts in other jurisdictions if required.

While you are not legally required to have a separate will covering your Jersey assets if you already have a valid will that is drafted to cover your entire worldwide personal assets, there are a number of benefits from doing so. 

If a person passes away leaving assets in Jersey which have a value of over £10,000, the asset holder is legally obliged to request that a Jersey Grant of Probate (if the deceased left a will) or Grant of Letters of Administration (if the deceased did not leave a will) is produced to them to enable these assets to be released to whoever is named on that document as the deceased's personal representative (PR).  The Grant gives the asset holder the assurance that they need to be able to take instructions from, and release the assets to, that named PR.

What is my movable (or personal) estate?

JM: Jersey law distinguishes between movable or personal assets and immovable or real estate assets.  Broadly speaking, your immovable estate will consist of freehold land and buildings together with their permanent fixtures and fittings. Your movable estate will comprise everything else and will includes such items as money, furniture, jewellery, cars and paintings as well as intangible assets such as shares (including shares of a property-holding company) and insurance policies. Movable assets are sometimes also referred to as personal assets, movables, movable estate or personal estate.

What can the will cover?

JM: Your will can cover all of your movable assets that are situated in Jersey.  If you own immovable assets anywhere then it is important to take proper advice regarding the succession of these assets upon your death as this will usually be governed by the law of the country in which the immovable asset is located. 

What happens if I die intestate (without making a valid will)?

JM: If you die without making a valid will that covers your movable (personal) estate situate in Jersey then it will be necessary to obtain a Jersey Grant of Letters of Administration before your Jersey assets can be dealt with.  

The person entitled to apply for the Jersey Grant of Letters of Administration will be determined by the law of the jurisdiction of your domicile at the date of your death. The identity of the relevant person may be difficult to ascertain (as may be the identity of your heirs) and this can be an additional reason for you to consider making a will specifically relating to your personal estate in Jersey.

Do I need a Jersey will if I am a beneficiary of a Jersey trust?

JM: If you are not domiciled in Jersey but you are a beneficiary of a Jersey trust you generally do not need a will to deal with your interest under the trust. However, you should always seek specific legal advice in situations such as these.

Do I need a Jersey will if I am a shareholder of a Jersey company?

JM: If you are not domiciled in Jersey but you are a shareholder in a Jersey or Guernsey company then, generally, a Jersey Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration will be required in order to deal with the shares and transfer them on your death. Therefore, it would be beneficial for you to make a Jersey will dealing with such shares although in each case specific advice should be taken.

Do I need a Jersey will if I own joint assets in Jersey?

JM: If you co-own a Jersey asset, it is necessary to check how it is held. Jersey law recognises two forms of co-ownership which are joint ownership and ownership in common. The crucial difference between them is that on the death of an owner in common, his interest in the asset passes to his estate whereas on the death of a joint owner, it would instead pass to the surviving joint owner/s. The presumption in Jersey is in favour of ownership in common, so express words are needed for joint ownership to be created. You should check this on any bank mandate or share certificate to ensure that this is clear.

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