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St. Maarten parliament approves 11 laws related to updated Civil Code


~ Establishment of trusts approved ~

PHILIPSBURG–Parliament completed on Monday afternoon the handling and unanimous approval of yet another stack of law and amendments pending since the day of the Netherlands Antilles. The eleven laws and amendments to laws make the country’s Civil Code “one of the most modern” in the Dutch Kingdom, according to Justice Minister Dennis Richardson.

The laws and amendments related to the establishment of trust companies, the setup of a Child Abuse Reporting Bureau at the Court of Guardianship, establishment of a three-day cooling off period for people who buy real estate, and consumer protection in some instances.

The laws were passed on by the Netherlands Antilles Parliament just before it was dissolved in 2010. St. Maarten’s Parliament started handling the laws in 2011 via a series of hearings with stakeholders to obtain their points of view on each of the changes. Subsequently, a number of Central Committee meetings took place for Members of Parliament to vet the laws further.

Justice Minister Richardson explained that the National Ordinance on inheritance and legacies (Book IV, Title 7.3 of the Civil Code) was being amended to improve the position of the surviving spouse and for children up to age 25 to receive a monetary payment.

This law will not come into effect immediately, to give notaries time to become acquainted with changes and receive training. The law has been deferred for a maximum of a year. Richardson will consult with the notaries to see how much time is needed and will regulate the amendment’s coming into force.

Approved was National Ordinance on the supplementation of Book III of the Civil Code regarding the establishment of trusts. Richardson said the amendment “aims to create new possibilities for the financial sector” and serves as “an importance vehicle” for, among other things, estate planning and management, and asset protection purposes. The existing tax regime for private foundations has been adjusted for the trusts.

This was the only agenda point that required individual voting by MPs. The eight MPs present for the meeting voted for the amendment. The only MP signed-in for the meeting but not in the General Assembly Hall to vote was Johan Leonard of the United People’s (UP) party.

Voting for the trust amendment were MPs George Pantophlet, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce, Jules James, Patrick Illidge, Dr. Lloyd Richardson, Roy Marlin, Leroy de Weever and Gracita Arrindell. Absent from the meeting were MPs William Marlin, Hyacinth Richardson, Louie Laveist, Frans Richardson and Romain Laville.

De Weever said he had requested individual voting because he wanted to ensure the importance of the change was highlighted. He thanked his fellow MPs who had voted for the amendment for allowing the country to grow its off-shore industry. This will assure that the country “takes its position in the modern world of asset protection and all the tools required for persons to make additional investment to this country.”

National Ordinance to amend Book I of the Civil Code dealt with the establishment of a Child Abuse Central Reporting Bureau, approval for the legal framework for the bureau that will fall under the Court of Guardianship. Richardson called it “a very important ordinance” and said it brought the country into line with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Approved were the national ordinance supplementing Book VII, Title I of the Civil Code that deals with the purchase of immovable property and the establishment of Title XII of Book VII of the Civil Code. These regulate that the sale of real estate must be recorded in writing and natural persons who purchase a home or contract services to build a home are given a cooling-off period of three days before the sale or contract goes into effect.

MPs also approved Title I of Book VII of the Civil Code that is supplementing consumer protection regarding purchases online, by mail and other instances at a distance. This supplement gives customers a seven-day cooling-off period to return the product if necessary. The law does not apply to restaurants and air travel.

On the National Ordinance to establish Title IV of Book VII related to the rental and lease of properties, the minister explained that the essence of this draft ordinance is the rent tribunal ordinance and it is now included in the Civil Code.

Also approved, was the National Ordinance that deals with personal partnerships as regulated in Book VII, Title XIII of the Civil Code. Such partnerships now have been changed to public partnerships.

The National Ordinance on insurances and annuities dealing with Book VII, Title XVII and Title XVIII was approved by MPs. The ordinance deals with the definition of insurance, different types of insurance, the legal relationship between the insured and insurer, the need for insurers to be specific in their questions to the insured. Those questions can go back to a maximum of eight years.

The approval of the National Ordinance on the revision of the marital property law as laid out in Book I of the Civil Code now exempts gifts and inheritances a spouse received before marriage from the community of goods and the date of the dissolution of marriage is now set as the date when the petition was filed for divorce.

The National Ordinance dealing with amendments to Book II of the Civil Code was approved. That dealt with a number of technical changes to Book II. The major change is the right to enquiry into legal entities such as foundations and companies by interested parties and the Prosecutor’s Office. The law already has been used in Curaçao five times, according to Minister Richardson – four times into a private entity and once into a government-owned company.

Richardson explained that the National Ordinance amending the civil procedure code regarding civil claims and the bankruptcy decree of 1931 with additions to the new civil code deals with civil claims before the court and bankruptcy and is the same as in Aruba and Curaçao.

President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell and MP Roy Marlin of the Democratic Party thanked Professor Jan de Boer, who updated the legislations. De Boer was present for the plenary session in Parliament House.

Richardson thanked former justice minister Roland Duncan and the Justice Ministry staff as well as MPs for the “Herculean task” they had performed to modernise the Civil Code.

Government will be notified about the approval of all laws and amendments as required by the Constitution. This will then allow for the changes to be published.

A meting of the Central Committee of Parliament was held on Monday morning prior to the plenary session, that dealt with four of the national ordinances approved in the afternoon.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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