Topic Archives: Wills, Trusts & Estates

Our property is ours to give. This belief forms the foundation of the common law principle of testamentary freedom – that by the terms of your last will & testament, you may leave whatever you choose to whomever you choose. In Bermuda, the Wills Act 1988 enshrines this principle at clause 5(1): “…every person may dispose, by will executed in accordance with this Act, of all real estate and all personal estate owned by him at the time of his death.”. Nevertheless, this freedom was never seen as entirely divorced from the context of family obligation, as was eloquently expressed by Chief Justice Cockburn in his judgment in the case of Banks v Goodfellow (1870) 5 LR QB 549, 563-565:
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MJM has acquired several ancient deeds and local legal instruments dating back to the early days of the settlement of Bermuda. Andrew Martin examines the legal context of these documents and their relevance in the development of legal principle, and puts them in their social and historical context.

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While most people prefer to leave nothing in life to chance, there are many who don’t get around to making a Will, for one reason or another. Life is busy after all and planning for death is surely to tempt fate in the wrong direction. Those who are married often make the assumption that the surviving spouse will take everything, in all circumstances. Sadly, this is not the case.
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As one of the oldest international trust jurisdictions, Bermuda is known as a premier jurisdiction for trusts and other private client structures. Bermuda serves a broad spectrum of international businesses and high net worth clients and this year we proudly hosted the Transcontinental Trusts Forum: International Forum 2016

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The Seniors Law Reform Committee has made a series of recommendations to the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment for amendments to legislation which would better protect seniors from financial abuse. This growing problem is particularly unsettling in the family context, where powers of attorney, joint bank accounts and voluntary conveyances of real estate are used by younger generations to gain control over the assets of their elders. It often remains hidden, because its victims are both ashamed and afraid that, if they resist, they will be placed in residential care and risk abandonment and emotional abuse by the perpetrating family member.

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