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HomeNewsArchivesTerritory Inches Toward Probate Reform

Territory Inches Toward Probate Reform

Stakeholders came together last week in what one participant described as a promising effort toward finally reaching consensus on how best to revise the Virgin Island’s probate statute.

“We had a wonderful meeting,” said St. Thomas attorney Tom Bolt, chairman of the V.I. Law Revision Commission. “We mapped out a plan,” he said.

Attending were representatives from Government House, some judges and court personnel, some senators and legislative staff, members of the V.I. Bar Association and representatives from AARP, Bolt said. The group consisted of about 15 people who gathered at the Chamber of Commerce office on St. Thomas.

“The next step is to put together a draft” of legislation, Bolt said. The goal is a “set of good laws that are easily understandable and effective and efficient.”

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The territory has been struggling to update its probate law for at least a decade. In late 2009 the Legislature passed a massive bill completely overhauling the V.I. Code sections dealing with probate, inheritance issues, trust and adult guardianship. The bill became law in early 2010. But some sections of the revised law didn’t sit well with one or another segment, and eventually the Legislature repealed the 2010 law, thus reinstating a statute that – virtually all sides agree – is outdated.

The current approach is to deal with at least some sections piecemeal rather than attempt a comprehensive revision.

Bolt said the issues of adult guardianship and protective services may be the first that the group addresses.

“This is a big concern for AARP,” he said.

The territory has been getting assistance in its efforts from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, also known these days simply as the Uniform Law Commission. A nonprofit organization established in 1892, the group offers assistance to local governments in states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

According to its website, the organization “provides states with nonpartisan, well-conceived and well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law.”

Bolt said after last week’s meeting with V.I. lawmakers, judges, attorneys and others, there was a second meeting with David English, a director with the national Uniform Law Commission who deals specifically with uniform trust and estate laws. English underscored the need to revise the old Virgin Islands laws which, according to Bolt, English described as some of the most antiquated in the nation.

The group attempting to do that will meet again in November, Bolt said; a date has not been set.

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