Your Voice from the Grave

Most of us have some idea of which relatives we want to benefit from our assets when we die, but neglect to state this in writing. Crafting a will ensures that your earthly wishes are carried out even from the grave.

For some folks, the reasons for not making a will range from thinking they have nothing to bequeath, to the fear of the inevitable mortal departure.

However, “individuals should assess their circumstances periodically and make provisions along the way,” attorney at law, Loverne George, told the Sunday Finance.

From furniture, clothes, books or even pets, once you own something of monetary value, it can be bequeathed to your loved ones, attorney, Andrea Moore advised.

Even if you are not aware of a gift or possession, or you acquire assets after making your will, these can be accounted for through the residuary clause provisions in your will.

“People are more inclined to make a will out of necessity, for example, in illness or old age,” Moore reasoned adding that most individuals don’t willingly opt to draft their last will and testament until they feel it absolutely necessary.

But since the certainty of our individual departures to the great beyond cannot be timed with precision, it is easier, the experts recommended, to just be prepared.

A will must be in writing, whether handwritten, typewritten or computer generated.

Great care must also be exercised by the testator- the person making the will- to express his wishes in plain, clear language, the Administrator General’s Department advised.

Additionally, the importance of this document in saving time and money through costly litigations and claims against one’s estate cannot be overemphasized.

When he died in July 2010, local reggae singer Sugar Minott left a massive catalogue, but because he did not leave a will, distributing his music has been a challenge.

Since there was no will, Minott’s estate has to be managed by the Administrator General’s Department.

His widow, Maxine Stowe, in a previous interview with the Jamaica Observer, said plans for any of Minott’s projects are on hold and there are many legal issues to be resolved before the matter of royalties to beneficiaries- which include herself and his children- are settled.

“Some people believe that once they make a will, they ‘will’ die,” George reasoned noting the strife that is often created between family members over inheritance.

An even more popular example can be drawn from the Bob Marley estate.

Bitter legal battles and family feuds erupted over his $30 million estate after the reggae star’s death in 1981.

The cost of preparing the document deters many individuals from preparing their wills. But as Moore advised, the intricacy and amount of assets typically determines the price.

“A will can be done for as little as $40,000,” she said adding that attorneys have also used “their discretion” when reviewing their clients financial standing and circumstances.

Additionally, a will paper-as it is often called- can be bought from a bookstore and completed by the testator.

When this is done, the instructions of the sheet must be followed to the T, the lawyers advised or “you run the risk of the document not being legally binding”.

For example, beneficiaries of the gifts of the will cannot be witnesses to the signing of the document. Also, there must be two witnesses, both of whom must be present when the testator signs the document.

The will must also be kept immaculately clean after it is prepared. “Not even a finger smudge should be on it,” George cautioned.

Individuals can then choose to register their wills with the Island Records Office or store it in a safety deposit box- one must however be sure to make family members aware of that the will exits if it the latter is chosen.

For George, a will offers an invaluable means for safeguarding children that parents will do well to utilize.

“Choose a trustee but be careful who you select as some people will not have our children’s interest at heart,” she warned.

She further advised against being “spiteful” in your wishes.

The attorney recounted a case in which a father and husband died leaving his assets to his older daughter and in effect, leaving his two young children and wife “out in the cold”.

Though there is an avenue for the widow to challenge the will provided by the Inheritance Provisions for Family and Dependents Act, the attorney warned that such ventures are very costly.

What the people said:

Barry,41

I know its important but I just don’t have the time to get one sorted out and I don’t really know how to get it done either.

Samantha, 29

I just start life so I don’t own anything but I know it’s important because when my father died my mother’s name nor mine were not on his account so we couldn’t get the money.

Dave, 4o

I know the importance of a will but I just haven’t gotten around to making one. I’m also aware of the challenges that families can face when there isn’t one so I’m going to make one soon.

Kayla 33,

My family and I have a verbal understanding. We know all know who is to get what but I know I need to put it in writing.

Roy,42

I don’t have a will because I don’t have anything much to will but I’m going to make one because I don’t want the government to get my money.

 

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