A will provides security coverage for beneficiaries

In Jamaica, the refusal or hesitation to make a will is largely linked to superstition. (Photo: Pixabay)

A will can act as a financial safety net that helps preserve the value of your assets, minimizes wait times for disbursement, and ensures that the inheritance you envision for your family comes to fruition.

When a resident of St Catherine lost both parents, neither of them left a will. Although the prospect of dividing her parents’ property between her siblings and other family members is not controversial, she nevertheless found herself in a complicated situation.

Among the important assets she acquired were a house, a car and large sums in a savings account with a local commercial bank. Unfortunately, she could not immediately benefit financially from any of these assets and will have to wait a long time for the General Administrator to distribute the inheritance.

The woman said that, despite the inconveniences she has suffered so far from the fact that her parents did not leave a will, she herself did not have time to make one.

“I keep saying I’ll do it tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. That’s what happened to me,” she explained.

Tasha Manley, General Counsel, The Jamaica National Group Limited, pointed out that making a will is not only an important aspect of estate planning, but also an excellent financial planning strategy. It is a comforter for the recipients and ensures that your wishes are carried out with precision.

“In Jamaica, the refusal or hesitation to make a will is largely linked to superstition. Some people believe that if they write a will, it will bring them bad luck and hasten their death. For others they don’t appreciate the importance of the will and are unaware of the implications of dying intestate (without leaving a will), while some simply don’t know how to proceed,” she explained. .

Manley pointed out that making a will is a lot easier than you might think.

“You can start by just writing down everything you own in a notebook or on a piece of paper and identifying who you would like to have them,” she said.

“Never believe that your possessions are too little or too little in value to be bequeathed by will. You will be surprised what personal items can create a rift between relatives when you are deceased.

She pointed out, to begin with, that a person who writes a will must be 18 years of age or older, be of sound mind, and must write the will without fraud, force or coercion. That is, the person must voluntarily prepare the will without any threat or undue influence from others.

JN’s general counsel outlined the following guidelines when writing a will:

1) A will must be in writing, whether handwritten, typed or computer generated.

2) Express how you want to distribute your property in simple language. Avoid the use of technical legal expressions.

3) Fully describe your assets so that they are easily identifiable. Instead of saying my bank account, for example, you should describe it as my savings account held at which financial institution and include the account number.

4) Identify an executor who must be named in the will. This person will be responsible for supervising the probate of the will, that is, the administration of the deceased’s estate so that the property is distributed as an inheritance as directed. Make sure the person is willing to serve in this capacity.

5) Appoint a guardian for your children if they are minors and a trustee who will act as guardian to manage the property left to your children.

6) Sign your name at the end of the will in the presence of at least two witnesses, both present at the same time during the signing.

7) Thereafter, the witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator (the person making the will), but not necessarily in the presence of each other. Failure to follow this procedure renders the will invalid.

Manley pointed out that a will is revoked by a subsequent marriage.

“If you get married after making your will, it is crucial that you write and execute a new will. You are free to change your will at any time. A subsequent will with a revocation clause will overrule the previous will,” she advised. Manley further pointed out that when an unmarried or childless person dies, the assets are distributed based on the law’s distribution table of intestacy and land charges.

She further stated that in cases where the property is held jointly, i.e. as co-owners with an equal undivided share, upon death, ownership of the property passes to the owner(s) remaining alive. It does not go under the terms of your will. As part of your financial planning strategy, you should consider breaking the lease in order to give your “share” to the beneficiary of your choice.

“However, if you own your property with someone in joint ownership, it means that you own a specified share of the property so that when you die, the share of the property you own can be listed in your will and go to the beneficiaries you choose.

“Once you’ve written the will, don’t just put it under the mattress, in a drawer, or in your vault. A will should be written and reviewed regularly, perhaps once a year, to ensure that it is still relevant to your situation. For example, if you have remarried, had more children or grandchildren, your named executors have died, or the relevant laws have changed, you definitely need a new will,” Manley said.

Implications of dying without making a will

1) Estate administration tends to be more expensive due to legal fees.

2) It creates uncertainty for your personal representative, who is appointed by the court, as to the extent of your assets because they do not know what you have if it is not documented; thus some of your assets may not be administered and will therefore not go to your relatives.

3) People may get a benefit that you did not expect them to get and others that you intended to benefit may not receive the benefit.

4) If you have children under the age of 18, the General Administrator’s Department will take responsibility for dividing your property, which may take longer than if there was a probate for the distribution of property.

Estate planning and financial planning go hand in hand. Both involve forecasting and strategizing for a desired outcome in the future.

“Making a will is important because it ensures that your family’s financial well-being is taken care of even if you’re not there,” Manley said.

MANLEY…a will needs to be written and reviewed regularly

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