Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Lack of wills adds to backlog

Published:Friday | November 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Emile Spence, consultant at the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), has said the failure of many Jamaicans to plan for their estate is impacting negatively on the justice system.

Speaking at a seminar on estate planning organised by JNBS for contributors to its JN Individual Retirement Scheme (JNRS), Spence noted that Jamaicans' continued delinquency to prepare wills was severely straining the resources of the Administrator General's Department, which, he noted, based on media reports, had a backlog of some 2,200 cases, with some of its case officers handling up to 500 cases.

"Our failure to prepare wills creates problems for our justice system. And thousands of cases, some of which are extremely complex to resolve, further overwhelm an under-resourced Administrator General's Department, which has difficulty performing its duties to ensure that those left behind benefit from your estate," he told JNRS contributors.

According to Spence, while wills are not necessarily difficult to do, many Jamaicans fail to do it for some simple reasons. He said many people continue to think that wills are only necessary for people who have many assets that may need administration after their death.

Common Beliefs

"Some of us believe that, by writing a will, it means we are going to die soon. Others think our spouse and our children should get everything; therefore, it's not worth the cost and time to prepare a will," he added.

Spence argued that the criminal justice system was also impacted by Jamaicans' failure to plan for their estate, noting that, very often, the deceased's assets become the centre of quarrels among family.

"Unfortunately, we don't stop to think about it; but our failure to do something as simple as preparing a will sometimes has very adverse consequences," he said. "We have heard about many instances where quarrels over what we refer to colloquially as 'dead lef' can become a source for domestic disputes. And, in many instances, these quarrels are about assets that we never thought family and friends would create a fuss about."