Case Study: Is the Bahamas a risky investment?

 In Probate

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Is the Bahamas a risky investment?

Samantha Waller, Asset Valuation & Transfer Case Manager, talks about her most fascinating case to date dealing with seemingly “worthless” land in the Bahamas.

Local Man

My client, Elizabeth Brown of Brown & Company, is administering an estate where the deceased owned a plot of land in the Bahamas.

Mr Hall, a retired shoe shop owner, bought a piece of land in the Bahamas on the island of Great Exuma in the 1960’s as an investment.

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His immediate family did not believe this investment to be worthwhile and showed no interest in its possibilities. All lacked faith in the investment apart from his son-in-law, who shared the feelings of the deceased; the land was a viable investment opportunity.

On 10 January 2000 Mr Hall passed away, having not named the Bahamian land in his will it passed, along with the rest of the estate, to his wife Patricia. Nothing had been done regarding the land, having been largely forgotten about until Mrs Hall passed away on 24 April 2006.

Again, the “forgotten” land had not been mentioned in the Will. As it was known that Mr Hall had wished for the land to be given to his son-in-law, the only person to share his feelings about its potential, it was the desire of his family for that wish to be fulfilled.

Cultural differences

Having looked into transferring the Bahamian land, Brown & Company, came to Title Research to solve this problem for them.

Often, when dealing with an estate comprising assets, the maze of jurisdictional law and unfamiliar process can become extremely time-consuming for many practitioners.

In this instance, the Bahamian culture has proved to be very challenging for us too. The Bahamian culture is very relaxed an often requests that speed is of the essence is politely ignored. As the sense of urgency is not the same as it is here in the UK it can make the process of repatriating Bahamian assets a time consuming process, it requires a lot of effort to continually chase and keep the system moving.

The complexity of transferring land in the Bahamas also depends on the geographical location. If the land is on a small island, like Great Exuma, it is not unheard of to be dealing with a government department consisting of just one person.

Unfamiliar Laws

In the Bahamas, the legal processes are not as defined as they are here in UK and the court processes are less regulated. The documentation required to reseal the English Grant can depend upon how the judge is feeling that day. In this instance, we were required by the judge to send four copy death certificates, only to be informed several weeks later that they did, in fact, need five!

When dealing with cases as such you have to be prepared for the worst. In this instance, we were unable to transfer the land into the name of the son-in-law as neither he nor the land had been named in the Will.

Under Bahamian Law, the personal representative does not have the authority to dictate who the land should pass to. In this instance, the Bahamian law dictates that the land can only be transferred into the name of the deceased’s children.

I am now embarking on the process of transferring the land into the names of the children so that I can then simultaneously transfer the land from them to the son-in-law.

At the heart of this story is the underlying wish of the deceased. Working closely with Brown & Company and the immediate family we are now one step closer to ensuring that this wish is fulfilled.

Help at hand

My clients often tell me that they have tried to tackle the process of repatriating overseas assets only to become overwhelmed by the time consuming processes.

We can take this problem away from you and we will deal with all of the breaucuracy such as local governments, estate agents, lawyers and courts and continually keep the process moving, that is what we do and where our experience and skills lie.

The repatriation of overseas assets is a time consuming process, there is no “quick” way to resolve the matter but we do have a number of proactive, “tried and tested” lawyers and agents all over the world that can help and have developed a wealth of experience and knowledge in tackling any obstacles that can arise.

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