Inheritance tax and inheritance law in Dominica
May 28, 2012
The Global Property Guide looks at inheritance from two angles: taxation, and what inheritance laws apply to foreigners leaving property in Dominica: what restrictions there are and whether making a will is advisable.
No inheritance taxes are levied in Dominica.
But note that the inheritance laws are biased against women. Even when there is a will, the wife is not entitled to the property, though she may still continue to live within the premises.
Thanks to Don Christopher & Co.
What inheritance laws apply in Dominica?
Inheritance of real estate in Dominica is governed by Dominican law:
The main laws governing inheritance of property in Dominica are:
- The Intestates Estate Act.
- The Dominica Wills Act.
The basic principles are:
- Dominican law generally applies to the inheritance of real estate (immovable property) situated in Dominica (lex situs); however if the deceased’s real estate is located outside Dominica, then the laws of the country where the real estate is situated apply.
- Dominican law (lex domicilii) applies to the inheritance of the personal (movable) property of a deceased person who had permanent residence in Dominica. If the deceased had a permanent residence elsewhere, then the law of the country of the deceased’s permanent residence applies to his/her personal property.
- If a deceased foreigner’s national law provides that in inheritance issues, the relevant law is that of lex situs (e.g. in the case of a foreigner who lives abroad but leaves real estate in Dominica) then the Commonwealth of Dominica Court does not necessarily decide the matter by applying Domincan law. Sometimes the Court in Dominica will find it inappropriate and unjust to apply the laws of Dominica. In circumstances of inheritance of property by relatives of a foreign person who dies intestate and never lived in Dominica then the foreign law of the deceased applies. This is an aspect of “choice of law rules” in Conflict of Laws or Private International law.
Intestate succession is governed by Dominican law.
If a person domiciled in Dominica dies without leaving a will, his/her property is inherited in accordance with The Intestates Estate Act as follows:
- The surviving spouse has priority and keeps a life interest in the property.
- If there are any children (under the age of eighteen) the property is left on trust for them (including adopted or illegitimate children who were accepted by the intestate or who lived with or were maintained by the intestate).
- If there are no children, then parents or other relatives, are entitled to inherit, according to a prescribed priority Firstly, parents will inherit. Then brothers and sisters will inherit if they are of whole blood. Afterwards grandparents, then uncles, aunts and finally relatives of half blood.
In circumstances of inheritance of property by relatives of a foreign person who dies intestate and who never lived in Dominica then the foreign law of the deceased may apply.
A person is free to leave property in Dominica to anyone.
A person is free to transfer or convey property in Dominica to anyone during his/her lifetime.
A person may bequeath or dispose of personal property and real estate after death by means of a will. A Domician will is not valid unless in writing and signed in accordance with the Dominica wills Act.
Wills in Dominica are not registered at the time they are written. Usually someone keeps custody of the will, and holds it until the testator’s death. If a will is made, but cannot be found, then the Court will draw an inference that the original will was destroyed by the testator, with the intention of revoking it.
Unlike some jurisdictions in some former British West Indian territories (e.g. Jamaica) the Court in Dominica does not have jurisdiction to order family provision which is not included in a will. For example a child or relative or separated wife cannot contest a will to claim reasonable provision for maintenance after the testator died.
If a foreigner dies with a foreign will bequeathing property in Dominica, there are provisions in the law for resealing probate. Consequently where a Court of Probate in any part of the British Commonwealth has granted Probate or Letters of Administration of a person’s estate of the deceased person, that document can be resealed in the Court in the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Ownership of real estate can be as Tenants in Common or Joint Tenancy.
If a person dies as a Tenant in Common, his/her share in the real estate remains, and can be inherited by other entitled persons. If one member of the Joint Tenancy dies the surviving joint tenant inherits the whole property.
Land in Dominica cannot be purchased by a foreigner unless he/she holds an Alien Landholding license.
However, the Law of Dominica makes an exception with respect to inheritance of land. Land acquired by an unlicensed alien under a will, or on intestacy, shall not be fortified within one year from the death of the Testator or the Intestate.