P&R’s probate move ‘a waste of time and effort’

‘A WASTE of time, effort and resources’ was how Deputy Gavin St Pier described Policy & Resources’ move to rescind a States resolution which would have seen the responsibility for probate taken over by the Royal Court.

Deputy Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29271314)
Deputy Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29271314)

This legal process of dealing with the assets of someone who has died has long been the role of the Ecclesiastical Court in Guernsey but last year the States decided that this should now be handled by the Royal Court.

However, this resolution of the States was one of 135 which Policy & Resources has listed for rescinding in its draft Government Work Plan.

Deputy St Pier had asked about progress in a series of written questions to the Policy & Resources committee earlier this month, before the draft was published.

He asked what had happened regarding the transfer of powers and the drafting of the necessary legislation, when it was likely to come into effect, and had it been agreed that any surplus from the date of the policy letter would be transferred to the Social Investment Fund.

In its response, P&R stated a draft of the legislation had been prepared and reviewed by an implementation group which had been established.

However, in December last year the Dean of Guernsey proposed that the service continued being offered by the Ecclesiastical Court, but with any surplus going to the Social Investment Fund.

‘The committee considered the matter in January and concluded that the Dean’s proposals represented a good compromise and that such an approach would align with the streamlining of the States and of others delivering services where there is not a necessity for the States to so do,’ said P&R’s answers.

It added that discussions had taken place about the surplus being transferred to the SIF from the date of the States’ decision, but no conclusion was reached.

‘We have to remember that the main reason that the policy change was agreed by the States was because in the 21st Century it is wholly inappropriate for one denomination of one faith – even if it is the established church – to be controlling the grant of probate after someone has died.

‘In 2021 it is clearly a civil and no longer a faith matter,’ said Deputy St Pier on receiving the answers.

‘Whilst the destination – the Social Investment Fund – of any surplus remains the same, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what the difference between the amount of surplus would be if probate is administered by the Royal Court rather than the Ecclesiastical Court.

‘I am disappointed too that the 2020 surplus is not being transferred to the Social Investment Fund.

‘If it can be transferred for 2021 and subsequent years, I can see no good reason why it is not also done for 2020, which was always the intention.

‘I find it an odd priority for the Policy & Resources committee to flip-flop on this issue given that, as the written answer says, all the work has been done and the legislation drafted.

‘What a waste of time, effort and resources.’

He hinted that steps might be taken to stop the rescission of the States’ decision and said other members of the Assembly were equally bemused.

‘I am sure we will discuss between ourselves before deciding what to do about it.’

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