Estate Administration in the Cayman Islands

A grant of probate or letters of administration will be necessary when a person dies and leaves Cayman Islands assets in their individual name, such as money in a bank account or shares in a Cayman Islands company. The Succession Law (2006 Revision) (the Succession Law) provides that no person shall take possession of or in any manner administer any part of the estate of a deceased person unless he or she has first obtained from the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands a grant of probate of the will or letters of administration of the estate of such deceased person.

A grant is necessary so that persons or organisations holding money or other assets in the deceased’s name know who will be legally entitled to the asset(s). The grant is proof that the person named in it has a legal entitlement as executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased.

The Grant

The Succession Law and the Probate and Administration Rules (2008 Revision) (the Rules) provide for four types of grants:

  • Probate – issued to an executor or executors named in a deceased person’s will.
  • Letters of Administration with the will annexed - issued where there is a will, but no named executor or the executor has renounced because he or she does not wish to be involved in dealing with the estate.
  • Letters of Administration - issued because the deceased has not made a will or the will is deemed to be invalid.
  • Resealing of Foreign Grants - obtained where a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration has been obtained through a court in a foreign country. Such grant of probate or letters of administration in respect of the estate of a deceased person may be sealed with the seal of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands. On doing so, the foreign grant shall be of the like force and effect and have the same operation in the Cayman Islands as if granted by the Grand Court.

Timing

The application for probate or letters of administration of the estate of a deceased person must be filed within six months of the death or within two months of the termination of any dispute concerning the right to apply for probate or letters of administration.

If an application is made after the six month period, the applicant must first make an application to the Court for special leave to apply out of time.

The timing for receiving a Court sealed order is approximately four months from the time of submitting a complete and correct application.

Within one year after the grant of probate or letters of administration, a personal representative must file with the court accounts supported by affidavit showing receipts and distributions of the estate.

General Procedure for Applications

The required grant is obtained by a paper application to the Civil Registry of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands and is reviewed on the papers by a Judge in Chambers. In other words there is no need for a hearing. It is not necessary for the executor/administrator to be physically present in the Cayman Islands to execute or submit the application.

The requisite documents will vary depending on the grant sought, but include:

Application for Special Leave

  • An application for special leave; and
  • An affidavit in support explaining the reason(s) for the delay in making the application.

Application for a Grant of Probate

  • An application for the grant of probate;
  • An affidavit in support of the application covering certain prescribed matters.
  • The original will or a court certified copy.
  • An official copy of the death certificate of the deceased.

Application for Letters of Administration with or without the will annexed

  • An application for the grant of letters of administration which includes a bond for double the amount of the sworn value of the estate (unless the court thinks fit to reduce the amount) with one or more surety or sureties.
  • An affidavit in support of the application covering certain prescribed matters.
  • An official copy of the death certificate of the deceased;
  • The original will or a court certified copy if the deceased died testate.

An Application for a Resealing of a Foreign Grant

  • An application for a resealing which, if it is in relation to a resealing of a foreign grant of administration, includes a bond for double the amount of the sworn value of the estate (unless the court thinks fit to reduce the amount) with one or more surety or sureties
  • An affidavit in support of the application covering certain prescribed matters.
  • A court issued copy of the foreign grant.
  • An official copy of the death certificate of the deceased.
  • An affidavit of foreign law in support of the application sworn by a lawyer, practicing in the country in which the foreign grant was issued, confirming that either (a) the will is valid under the laws of that country; or (b) the person appointed as administrator was validly appointed under the laws of that country.

Documents in a Foreign Language

Where documents such as the foreign grant, the death certificate or the will are not in English, a full certified translation of such documents must be submitted along with the original foreign language documents. The certification must be accompanied by a signed statement attesting that the translation is accurate and complete and to the best of the translator’s knowledge and ability.

Caveats

A person who wishes to ensure receiving notice of a grant prior to it being sealed may enter a caveat in the probate registry by completing a prescribed form and lodging it with the clerk of the probate court. The caveat is only valid for six months and will lapse automatically unless renewed.

Court fees

Court filing fees in respect of making an application are in the region of US$300.

  • An application for special leave, a grant of probate, letters of administration or a resealing of a foreign grant - US$243.90.
  • Any affidavit in support of the application - US$30.48.
  • Obtaining a copy of an order of the court – US$30.48.
  • Inventory or account – US$30.49.

Summary

The rules outlining the process for applying for a grant are technical, detailed and specific. Significant time delays will be incurred if an incorrect or incomplete application is submitted. Our Cayman Islands Private Client team has years of experience advising on and obtaining grants of probate and letters of administration.