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Queries Mount Over Legal Entitlement

Queries Mount Over Legal Entitlement
The late Member of Parliament Anare Vadei during an earlier sitting had asked whether the new Bill affected any disbursement of funds.
April 01
12:57 2018

Since the De facto Bill was passed in Parliament this month, the Fiji Public Trustee Corporation Limited (FPTCL) has seen an upswing in a number of queries associated with cases involving claimants who are not legally married.

Corporation representative Priya Lal made this comment to the Standing Committee on Social Affairs in Parliament on Thursday after Member of Parliament Anare Vadei asked whether the new Bill affected any disbursement of funds.

Ms Lal said this had been discussed and would affect the corporation because most of the clients coming to their office were de facto partners and had been left out of legal deals.

“Now we are looking at an influx of cases after this amendment,” Ms Lal said.

The De facto Bill, short form of the Succession Probate and Administration Amendment Bill, 2018 is not new as there were already laws that existed in the Family Law Act that recognised de facto relationships.

It is understood there was already a provision in the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) that recongnised de facto relationships and the Bill was applicable in instances where there was no will.

In other matters, the Standing Committee chairperson Veena Bhatnagar asked the corporations if funds left in the hands of the high court were invested anywhere and if beneficiaries reaped the benefit once they obtained it?

Corporation chief executive officer Antonio Takala said in estate cases like properties, the corporation held onto the property until the beneficiaries turned 18.

Mr Takala said in most cases, one parent would be alive or there would be a legal guardian.

He said their role were to act as trustees and not guardians.

He said they were not sure if the court did ensure if funds were invested or not.

However, Ms Lal said at the moment they have recently taken a precedent case before the High Court, whereby a parent wanted the corporation to be trustees and not the High Court.

She said they were now awaiting the ruling of the High Court.

Ms Lal said this had been challenged in court and was a precedent case.

She said previously before the amendment of the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) Act, all funds use to come to the corporation.

However, she said the High Court advised they were bound by the Act and unless the Act was changed than they could not give the funds to them.

“But we have made submission, on the balance of convenience that it would be better if the funds are with us so the guardians on an ad hoc basis can take out the funds for the beneficiaries so that their welfare and education is looked after.

“But with the High Court, they indicated that through the Chief Registrar’s Office that they do not invest the funds, if the guardian would ask for the funds, a court application would have to be made every time.

“But with us the guardian comes to us and we do a strict, stringent process and once satisfied we release the funds.”

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

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