By Our Reporter
The House has passed the Administration of Estates (Small Estates) (Special Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to bring services closer to the people and reduce the cost of obtaining letters or probate in estates.
The Bill seeks to revise the monetary jurisdiction of Magistrate courts to conform to the Magistrate Courts Act and also provide for the revocation of probate or letters of administration for want of jurisdiction.
According to a report on the Bill by the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cap 156 in the Act that governs the administration and execution of small estates in Uganda has since become obsolete since its commencement on 6 June 1972.
The Bill serves to cater for an Act entitled, “The Administration of Estates (Small Estates) (Special Provisions) (Amendment) Act”, which will amend the Administration of Estates (Small Estates) (Special Provisions) Act, Cap 156.
The report was presented by Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (Jeema, Bugiri Municipality) on behalf of the committee during a plenary sitting on Wednesday, 17 March 2021, chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
The values prescribed in section 2 of the Administration of Estates (Small Estates) (Special Provisions) Act, the report reads, were too low to be effectively administered in the current economic situation.
“The committee observes that under the law, a small estate is one that has a value of not more than Shs100,000. This value was significant at the time the law was enacted but has, with the passage of time, been eroded by inflation, making the provisions redundant and ineffective since the cost of obtaining probate or letters exceeds the value of estate as well as the beneficial interest in the estate,” Basalirwa said.
He also said that the provisions of section 2 of the Act had been made redundant by the passage of time, with many estates being wasted or un-administered due to the cost of obtaining letters of administration or probate from the High Court being higher than the value or the beneficial interest of the estate.
Among the proposals of the Bill is to amend the principal Act to insert the provision for currency points with each point valued at Shs 20,000; which will shield the values for small estates/property prescribed in the Act, from inflation.
The processes of applying for probate or letters over a small estate is based on standardised forms prescribed in the Administration of Estates (Small Estates) (Special Provisions) Act and the rules made thereunder and can be undertaken without the need for a lawyer or any form of legal training.
Priority for grant of letters or probate is given to the children of the deceased, the surviving spouse, the father or mother of the deceased and other persons related to the deceased by full or half blood.
The Administrator General may also be granted letters of administration over a small estate in two instances, the first being where the people to whom priority is granted do not apply for the grant and the other being where the Administrator General or an agent of the Administrator General, pursuant to section 2 (5) and 4 (5) of the Administrator General’s Act, takes over and administers the estate with or without a grant made by court.