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Financial Adviser | Is a will made in the US valid in Jamaica?

Published:Friday | September 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMOran Hall

QUESTION: I am a Jamaican living in the USA – a citizen planning to retire and return home. I have a property and house on it. Should I make the will in Jamaica or make it up here before I return? I am not sure a will would be valid in Jamaica if written in the USA.

FINANCIAL ADVISER: A will made in the United States relating to property in Jamaica and which conforms to the Wills Act is valid in Jamaica and it has to be probated in Jamaica. If you, however, own property in the USA, you should make a separate will relating to the US-owned property and have it probated there because the US is a different jurisdiction which is outside of the Commonwealth.

Some of the requirements of the Wills Act are: the testator (the person making the will) should be at least 18 years old; the will should be in writing; it should be signed at the foot or end by the testator, or by some other person in his or her presence and by his or her direction; the signature should be made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time, and such witnesses should attest and subscribe the will in the presence of the testator.

The Wills Act also stipulates that any gift made in a will to a person who attests to the execution of the will, that is, witnesses the will, or to the spouse of the witness, is null and void. It also provides for the testator to affix his or her signature near to any alteration to the will and for the witnesses to do the same as witnesses.

The signature of the testator or subscription of the witnesses may also be made at the foot or the end of or opposite to a memorandum referring to such alteration, and written at the end or some other part of the will.

Be careful to ensure that the following are included in the will: the identification of the testator – the person making the will; revocation of all former wills or codicils – amendments to a will; appointment of an executor – whose function is to distribute the assets of the deceased according to instructions contained in the will; instruction to pay all debts, funeral, and testamentary expenses; and identification of beneficiaries to receive specific assets and the residue of the estate.

Go ahead and make your will for the property you own in Jamaica, but select as witnesses persons who are 18 or older and who are of sound mind. If your will meets all the requirements of the Wills Act, the issue of its validity should not arise. There is no need to wait to come home to make your will.

- Oran A. Hall, the principal author of ‘The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning’, offers personal financial planning advice and counsel.