New BVI probate rules are of critical importance to owners of BVI Companies, the majority of whom reside in Asia, experts from the international law firm Ogier told a BVI House Asia seminar.
More than 80 professionals attended the seminar at the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce in United Centre, Admiralty.
Ms. Elise Donovan, Director of BVI House Asia, welcomed attendees to the seminar and introduced Mr. Marcus Leese, Partner, and Ms. Wisdom Hon, Associate at Ogier.
“It is vitally important for people holding BVI companies to pay attention to the new probate rules,” said Ms. Donovan. “According to the Capital Economics report, Creating Value: The BVI’s Global Contribution, 40 per cent of BVI companies are held by beneficial owners in Asia, particularly in China and Hong Kong.”
“A very large proportion of BVI companies in Asia are in the hands of natural persons – individuals,” Mr. Leese said. “Irrespective of what those individuals may think, they are all going to die, and at that stage the transfer of those shares from the deceased to those who are entitled to them requires a probate process. So it is absolutely necessary and relevant in the case of all natural persons holding shares in BVI companies to understand the process, particularly when one considers that the value of assets held in the companies is in many cases exceptionally high. So the transfer of those shares in an orderly and speedy manner is extremely important.”
Ms. Hon then provided greater clarity and detail around new rules on non-contentious probate and administration of estates effective at the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court from late last year, including grant entitlement for non-BVI domiciled deceased; declaration of estate value, with focus on the law regarding the last domicile of the deceased; new statutory forms; the applicability of a will; filing an estate account; new rules for the timing and form of an advertisement; and a new filing fee schedule.
Ms. Hon offered some practical tips: find a younger witness who can attest to a will; in validating a will, consider whether it is original or not, and from which jurisdiction; note that the date of death is not as relevant as the date of an application; and ensure the correct value of an estate. Her most important tip: be patient throughout the process.
Ms. Hon touched on the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System Act of 2017, or BOSS, which is effective from June 30, 2017. She discussed what reporting must be done in the case of the death of a beneficial owner, noting that a company has to notify its registered agent within 15 days of becoming aware of a change of any beneficial ownership information. If a company fails to comply with the requirement without reasonable cause it is liable to a maximum fine of US$10,000. If a registered agent fails to comply with the 15-day notification requirement without reasonable cause, the agent is liable to a maximum fine of US$40,000.
The presentation sparked questions during the session as well as a lively question and answer session about the new rules.
Photo Credit: BVI House Asia