$50B ‘DEAD LEF’ DISPUTE
Chuck urges AGD to sell estates, distribute proceeds as lengthy wrangling causes depreciation
JUSTICE MINISTER Delroy Chuck is advising the Administrator General’s Department (AGD) to take steps to sell properties worth tens of billions of dollars tied up with the agency for years, owing to lingering disputes among beneficiaries. In his...
JUSTICE MINISTER Delroy Chuck is advising the Administrator General’s Department (AGD) to take steps to sell properties worth tens of billions of dollars tied up with the agency for years, owing to lingering disputes among beneficiaries.
In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate on Tuesday, Chuck revealed that up to the end of March this year, the AGD was managing more than $50 billion in properties that belonged to persons who died without making a will.
Indicating that the prolonged management of the $50 billion in properties was not sustainable, Chuck said it placed a heavy burden on the AGD.
The justice minister urged beneficiaries of these properties to settle their differences and end the protracted dispute over “dead lef”.
“And what is important is for the administrator general to get the beneficiaries, using mediation, to agree as to how they will share the properties,” Chuck advised.
He said that once the properties remain undistributed, they tend to deteriorate, and a significant amount of their value is lost as the resources are not readily available to maintain and improve them.
In a follow-up interview with The Gleaner, Chuck revealed that one estate among the properties being managed by the AGD is valued at $800 million. He said the beneficiaries have not come to an agreement on how this property is to be shared.
“If the beneficiaries in each estate agree as to how the estate should be shared, then there is no problem; you just distribute it. But especially with an estate that has real property, my instruction is rather than allowing the real estate to deteriorate, sell the real estate, collect the funds and then distribute it at the end of the day,” he insisted.
He said that the administrator and executor have total control over how to determine how properties are sold or exchanged.
Attorney-at-law Nigel Jones indicated that he would support legislative changes to allow the AGD to sell the properties and share the proceeds among the beneficiaries.
“It’s a great idea if they get around to doing so because I guess that would help to resolve the issue that they are having, so it’s something that ought to be supported, and it’s an effort that could be lauded,” Jones told The Gleaner.
At a 2016 Gleaner Editors’ Forum, a team from the AGD reported then that the agency was managing cash worth an estimated $2 billion and properties valued at $10 billion.
With the properties now being managed by AGD valued at more than $50 billion, this represents a 400 per cent increase over the value of the estates in 2016.
“The number of cases is about a few more than 3,000. The value is at least $10 billion in properties,” Patrick Wright, then finance and planning executive at the AGD, told The Gleaner in 2016.