1. Wills and Succession – An Introduction

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On being born in Jersey, the birth is registered by the parish registrar of the parish where born, within 21 days from date of birth.

On death in Jersey, that death is registered by the parish registrar of the parish where death occurred, within 5 days from date of death (or such longer time if an inquest).

On death it is likely that you will leave behind personal possessions and real estate. You may also leave behind relatives. How those possessions are distributed, to whom and in what quantity, are to be resolved after death. You can set out in a document in advance of death your testamentary wishes as to who gets what and nominate a person to administer and distribute your estate. However on some matters the law and rules may over ride those testamentary wishes. Different laws and rules apply depending on the type of property for distribution and the connection that you have with your relatives. All of these matters fall under the general title of “Wills and Succession”. It is a complex area of law and usually calls for the involvement of a lawyer.

The purpose of this document is to set out a general introduction on the main points of the the law and rules. Further detail on the general points and extending to specific areas are set out in Part 2 and Part 7.

Laws and Rules

The law and rules covering Wills and Succession are to be found:

The Customary law.

This is sometimes described as being the product of generally accepted usage and practice. By such usage and practice over time, it becomes accepted law.

Customary law may be found in the written works of historical commentors writing on the law of Normandy, such as Terrain, or writing on the customary law of Jersey, such as Le Geyt. Customary law still plays an important part in the development of the law on Wills and Succession in Jersey, particularly absent any written laws or rules on point.

The Common Law.

This is sometimes described as Judge made law, set out in the written Judgments of the Court of Jersey. These Judgments are to be found on the Jersey Legal Information board website.

Laws and rules passed by the States of Jersey.

These are documents in writing. Laws and rules on Wills and Succession are for the most part now made in this way. The most important are:

  • Law (1851) on wills of immovables, as amended.
  • Probate (Jersey) Law 1998, as amended.
  • Probate (General) Rules 1998, as amended.
  • Wills and Succession (Jersey) Law 1993, as amended.

Types of Property

Property in Jersey is classified as either movable (personal) or immovable (real estate). The distinction for Wills and Succession is very important.

Immovable property includes:

  • Land.
  • Buildings attached to the land. If it becomes movable, it may be classified as a movable.
  • Contract lease for a period greater than 9 years and passed by contract before the Royal Court.
  • A simple conventional hypothec (type of loan/charge placed against property and passed by contract before the Royal Court).
  • Sole ownership of an individual unit of accommodation (such as a flat) in a block and ownership in common with other individual co-owners of the land, building and common areas (Flying Freehold), and passed by contract before the Royal Court.

Immovable property ownership and other information is set out in written property contracts filed in the Public Registry. Copies of Wills of Immovable property, dating back to 1851, and the index of Deeds of Sale, are held at the Public Registry in Royal Court House, Royal Square. You can get copies of Wills of Immovable property and copies of contracts of immovables by going to the Public Registry in the Royal Court building. You must give details of the property concerned, the surnames of the owners and any relevant dates. These should be given to The Registrar to help in any search. You can search the computer records yourself but if any help is needed from a member of the Registry staff, then a charge per hour may be made.

Movable property by contrast is not registered in the Public Registry. There is unlikely to be any one register or list of what personal possessions are held by a person in their lifetime. Such property may include, bank accounts, Insurance documents, trust documents, pension plans and so on and be in a multitude of locations. Tangible possessions such as cars, household appliances, clothes, jewellery, and so on are again unlikely to be set out in one list. Therefore at death the first task of the person administering the estate will be to compile a list of all assets and debts.

If estate planning has taken place prior to death then a Will may contain much of this information.

The Registrar of Probate at the Judicial Greffe, Royal Court House, Royal Square, holds original Wills of movables, and some valid copies of Wills that have been proved abroad, from 1986. Any Wills before that year are held by Jersey Archive. The public are not allowed to search the records themselves but a request can be made to the Registrar of Probate for a copy of a Will if there is a good reason for needing the copy. The Registrar will need to have the full name of the person who has died, including any maiden name, and the date of death (or at least the year of death) in order to carry out a search. There is a search fee and also a charge for producing the copy Will.

If a Will covers both movable and immovable property then the original Will will be held with the Registrar of Probate and a copy lodged with the Public Registry .

Wills and succession – words that you may need to know

Abatement – Legal process arising when there are insufficient assets to meet the legacies that the Testator has made by Will.
Ademption – The failure of a gift of property set out in the Will of the deceased (e.g. no longer has ownership)
Administrator – A person appointed by the Royal Court under Letters of Administration (Intestacy) to administer the estate of the deceased.
Ascendant – A person who precedes (is above) another person in lineage and direct line (e.g. a child’s father above a child)
Assets – Things the person owns.

Beneficiary – The person who is going to benefit from a legacy or device under a Will or absent a Will.
Bequest – Gift by Will of movable property (also called Legacy)

Codicil – A legal and binding testamentary document that modifies or varies a Will.
Cohabitee – Another person who you live with in the same property (e.g. partner).
Contentious Issues – Something which is not agreed (e.g. how much to pay in fees).
Crown – The State including Crown dependencies (e.g. Jersey). The head is the Sovereign, the Queen.

Debts – Something of value owed to someone. The person owing the money is called a Debtor. The person owed the money is called a Creditor
Deceased – Someone who has died.
Descendant – A person who descends (is below) from another person in lineage and direct line (e.g. a grandfather, then father, then child)
Devise – A gift of immovable estate on death.
Distribution – handing out or giving of things to people
Domicile – The country you reside in and intend to reside in.
Dower – The right of a widow to life enjoyment of one third of the immovable estate of her husband after his death. It is unclear whether this relates to all the immovable property or just some of it. [ Now superseded by 1993 Wills and Succession Law, A5 to A6C]

Estate – A dead person’s property and everything they own, and owe, is called their estate.
Executed – Carried out in a particular way.
Executor – A person named in the Will and appointed to administer the estate of the deceased under Grant of Probate.
Executor Dative – A person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of the deceased under Grant of Probate.

Heir – The person deemed in law as having a superior claim to the dead person’s property on death
Heirs at law – Where no Will has been made, the law recognises blood family members in order of priority who are entitled to inherit.
Holograph Will – A Will that is written, signed, and date is ascertainable, by the hand of the Testator but not witnessed.

Illegitimate – A child born to unmarried parents.
Immovable Estate – Generally land and buildings including permanent fixtures to the land (often referred to as real estate).
Inherit – to become the owner of something.
In perpetuity – Receiving something forever, permanently, for always (e.g. passing a contract of freehold land, you take absolutely).
Intermeddling – Become involved with something without authority or right.
Intestacy – A dead person has left no Will, or left an invalid Will, or Will which only partly deals with the estate. The property falls on Intestacy.
Invalid – Not legal.
Issue – the dead person’s children.

Lack of capacity – Someone who is not of sound mind to make decisions for themselves.
Lapse – Something becomes invalid by passage of time or by expiry of some other event.
Law / Statute – Government made written laws.
Legacy – A gift by Will (sometimes called a bequest).
Légitime – The part of an estate that is the legal entitlement of a spouse, civil partner and/or child
Letters of Administration – The legal process made by application to the Probate Registry to administer the estate of the decease when there is no Will of movable property (Intestacy).

Maiden name – The name the woman had before she got married.
Maternal – On the mothers side of the family.
Matrimonial home – The home where the couple reside together.
Movable Estate – Property such as money, cars, furniture and so on (sometimes called personal estate as it is their personal possessions).

Next of Kin – The nearest relative of the person.

Paternal – On the fathers side of the family.
Personalty – This is another word for moveable property.
Possession – Having something in your control or custody.
Pre decease – Die before you in time.
Principal Heir – The person first in line through blood or lineage by degree who is legally entitled to partake in the succession (e.g. the deceased leaves no spouse but one son). That person then enjoys certain privileges and responsibilities.
Probate – The legal process made by application to the Probate Registry of proving the legal validity of a Will of movable property. A grant of Probate will follow.
Property title – Document or other means of establishing legal ownership of the property
Power of Disposition – The legal ability to give away.

Residue – What is left in the estate of movable property after all debts, gifts and fees have been deducted
Renounce – The refusal or giving up of the role of Executor
Reversion – The right to possess or succeed to property upon the conclusion of some event (e.g. the death of a person)

Siblings – Brother and sisters.
Spouse – Husband, wife or civil partner.
Stamp Duty – Court duty payable to the Court in the form of purchasing stamps from treasury.

Testator – A person who has made a Will of movables.
Trust Company – The placing of all or part of the estate in the hands of trustees who are charged with administering it on behalf of beneficiaries

Vests – To settle something on someone.
Viduité – The right of a widower to life enjoyment of the immovable estate of his wife after her death. [Now superseded by 1993 Wills and Succession Law, A5 to A6C]

Will – A legal document that the person made before they died saying what they wanted to happen to all their property after their death.

Layout of Information

What is the nature of your enquiry? It may be general or specific, or cover multiple areas. Each particular death will turn on its own particular facts and circumstances. Different laws, rules and procedures may apply to different factual situations. For example, your surviving father died and you wish to be appointed to administer the estate of your late father. He has left a will of movables but no will of immovables . There are personal possession and a 3 bedroom house.

To assist you in targeting the relevant area for your enquiry, the pages are broken down in to specific areas. They are:

1 Wills and succession: An Introduction.

2 Wills and succession: Making a valid will of movable.

3 Wills and Succession: Movable property disposal.

4 Wills and succession: Immovable property disposal.

5 Wills and succession: Grant of probate (leaving a valid will).

6 Wills and Succession: Letters of Administration (Leaving no valid will).

7 Wills and Succession: The appointment and role of the Executor