Ask The Experts

A. Bonnici asked: I am a keen lover of the environment and nature, and it is my biggest dream to own 3/4 tumoli of agricultural land on which I could grow a few crops and relax with my family. I have been searching for this ideal place for a long time.

The Lands Department presently owns a considerable percentage of the countryside, which has been leased at very ridiculous premia (qbiela) for ages. Some of this land is leased for farming and harvesting etc. but there is a considerable amount of land that is abandoned but still owned. Why doesn’t the Lands Department offer this land for sale rather than continuing with the current system of absurd rent?

Agricultural Lease or Qbiela, is the legal title the Government or other land owner grants a farmer for agricultural land. This title has a rich history and tradition dating back centuries. A pecularity of this system is that it is annually extended on the 15th of August, the Feast day of Santa Marija.

The value of Agricultural Land extends far beyond its intrinsic economic or commercial value. The services rendered by a farmer out-weigh the price the land may fetch on the market, simply as a stretch of land. In this sense, Agricultural Land is not willingly sold, unless it is in the national interest.

Currently the Land Department is leading an exercise by which farmers who work the land can apply for a title of agricultural lease over their land. This scheme is registering
great success. Interested parties who would like to apply for title over agricultural land may do so by writing to the Government Property Division indicating clearly on a site plan the land they are interested in.

Edward Bonello, Communications Coordinator at the Parliamentary Secretariat for Small Business and Land

John Mallia asked: My aunt, who was married with no children, has just passed away. Her husband died around ten years ago. My siblings and I, as her closest relatives, would like to know whether she left a will.

How can we find out if one exists? From where would I be able to acquire a copy of the will, if there is one? I’d appreciate any help and advice you could offer on the procedures I should follow. Thanks in advance.

When a person dies, the closest relatives feel justified in knowing whether that person has left a will. The first step would be for such relatives to register the death within the Civil Status Department at the Public Registry, since this is a requirement for the issue of the official death certificate. When the said certificate is issued, the potential heirs may then proceed with ordering the testamentary searches, which are of two kinds, one for public wills, which is carried out at the Public Registry (searches section) and the other one is for secret wills, which is carried out at the Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction. Both searches will establish which was the last will, if any, of the deceased person, and then a copy of that will may be obtained from the notary who had published the same will or from the Notarial Archives, upon the presentation of the official death certificate.

Dr Maronia Fenech B.A., LL.D. (Notary Public)

A.L. Baldacchino asked: Four years ago, when I was 54, I had my right hip replaced due to osteoarthritis. Two years later I had to replace my left one too. How long will the replacements last? What will I feel when they need to be replaced again? Can they actually be replaced again?

Hip replacement is a surgery for people with severe hip damage. During this operation damaged cartilage and bone from the hip joint are replaced with synthetic parts relieving pain and improving walking and other movements. It is not a first line treatment but rather a last resort when medicine and exercise do not help.

All hip replacements eventually wear out as artificial hips are not as durable as our own. Hip replacement parts are made up of metal and plastic, both of which eventually wear out. Despite the use of special materials today, hip replacements last longer but still wear out. Studies show that common types of hip replacements can last more than 20 years however there are hundreds of studies and these all vary in the type of implant used and the type of patient who had their hip replaced. One very large study found that 80% of hip replacements were functioning well after 15 years in the younger (under 65) patients, and 94% of the older (over 65) patients.

A second hip replacement (revision) is possible but it is a major undertaking and it is often less successful than an initial hip replacement however data suggests that only 2% of all hip replacements need revision within 5 years of the initial procedure.

Dr Malcolm Paul Galea, MD, MSc (Family Medicine)