Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Oran Hall | Gaining access to wills

Published:Sunday | December 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION:

Where does one go to get a copy of someone's will after their death? Please let me know the prices.

- Audrey

FINANCIAL ADVISER:

There are three possible sources from which to get the Will: the registry of the Supreme Court, the Island Record Office and the executor.

The Registrar General's Department has a facility whereby a document regarding the distribution of an individual's or testator's estate after death can be registered at the Island Record Office during the person's lifetime. From the time it is deposited up to the point at which the testator dies, it is called a 'paper writing'.

Amendments can be made to the document while the individual is alive. The last paper writing made will revoke the previous ones, and then becomes the 'last will and Testament' upon the testator's death. For a paper writing to be registered, it should include: name of the testator: name, address and occupation of two witnesses; signatures of parties - testator and witnesses; and date of execution.

A paper writing that satisfies the requirements stated above should be taken to the Island Record Office where it will be assessed for the following fees:

- Each Legal sheet - each 160 words: $500

- Deed receipt: $500

- Service charges: 6-10 days: $1,000; 3-5 days: $2,500

After the appropriate fees are paid, customers will be issued a receipt and then told when to return for the completed document, based on their request. There are many, however, who do not register the document relating to the distribution of their estate after their death at the Island Record Office.

The document becomes a public document when it is lodged at the Island Record Office, so any member of the public can have access to it by providing the date of the execution of the document, the testator's name, and the date the document was lodged, and upon payment of the sheeting cost, which is $500 per 160 words.

An expedition fee of $2,500 is charged if the document is needed in three to five days.

The above holds while the document is a paper writing and after it becomes the last will and testament of the deceased person, regardless of whether it has already been probated.

 

CERTIFIED COPY

 

Additionally, if it has already been probated, you can get a certified copy of the will from the Supreme Court. The attorney-at-law who filed it can write to the deputy registrar of the Supreme Court and make the request. A beneficiary or the executor of the estate can also request a copy through the attorney-at-law.

In any event, it is quite possible that the executor, or executrix in the case of a woman, may have a copy, and thus be able to grant your request.

This is a good opportunity to again look at the role of the executor. The executor can be a person or an entity such as a law firm or trust company. The executor's primary functions are to prove the validity of the will in a court of law by applying for the grant of probate of the estate, which the court grants after it examines and verifies that the will was prepared in accordance with the Wills Act, and to satisfactorily carry out the wishes of the deceased person, as stated in the last will and testament.

In administering the estate, the executor generally collects, preserves, realises, and distributes the income and assets of the estate.

To collect and preserve the assets of the deceased, the executor takes possession of, or assumes control over the assets as soon as he is properly able to do so. This means, among other things, gathering and keeping safely the deceased's documents and property such as the original will, bank books or statements, titles to land and motor vehicles, as well as keys to real property, motor vehicles, and safety deposit boxes.

The executor has an ongoing duty to ensure that the estate assets are preserved until they can be realised and the proceeds distributed to the creditors of the deceased and, thereafter, to the beneficiaries of the estate.

He should ensure that the debts of the deceased are paid; collect money owed to the deceased at the time of death; and seek to get the best price for assets by getting a proper valuation; and advertise assets to get the best possible market exposure. For this, it would be useful to engage the services of professionals where appropriate.

The executor will be able to distribute the assets of the estate according to the terms of the will after the court has given the requisite grant of representation after all debts, expenses, undischarged mortgages, outstanding loans, government fees, and taxes have been liquidated, and if the estate has more assets than liabilities.

The executor should also contact the beneficiaries and creditors and consistently update them on the progress of the administration of the estate, and in the end should be sure to account to the beneficiaries and the creditors of the estate through the courts by filing the accounts of the administration of the estate.

- Oran A. Hall, principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers personal financial planning advice and counsel. finviser.jm@gmail.com.