Personal Financial Adviser | Administering a Jamaican will from overseas
QUESTION: I have a query I would like you to advise me on. If a will was completed in Jamaica, upon the death of the testator, how can the executor, who is resident in the United Kingdom, take possession of the estate in Jamaica and make plans to sell the property, which has recently become vacant?
Living in the United Kingdom does not hinder the executor from carrying out his functions. There are certain steps which must be followed, and we will go through them.
First of all, the will has to be admitted to probate in the courts of Jamaica, for which, it would be necessary to retain an attorney-at-law in Jamaica. The attorney-at-law would then send the necessary documents to the executor for him to sign them.
The documents would then be sent to the Stamp Office for the assessment and payment of transfer tax on death, which is 1.5 per cent of the value of the estate at the time of the death of the testator. No stamp duty is payable. Then, they would be sent to the Titles Office for the property to be transferred to the beneficiaries.
In a case in which the will was made in England or another Commonwealth country relating only to property in Jamaica, it would be probated as if it was executed in Jamaica. Such a will probated in a Commonwealth country would have to be resealed in Jamaica. An application to the Supreme Court of Jamaica for resealing should be accompanied by a certified copy of the probate and will.
Steps can be taken to sell the property after the testator's death and the name of the executor have been noted on the title at the Titles Office of the National Land Agency if the plan is to sell the property.
The executor does not have to come to Jamaica to carry out his functions. In fact, he can appoint an agent by power of attorney to do what he would normally do as executor. Bear in mind that the executor would do what the deceased person would normally do if he was alive.
So the agent, acting for the executor, would be able to collect rent, give notice to tenants, sell the property, and do much more.
Note that in addition to proving the validity of the will in a court of law and ensuring that the wishes of the testator as stated in the last will and testament are carried out satisfactorily, the executor is also required to ensure that all of the testator's debts are paid and that the residue of the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.
Any person who is selected to act as the agent of the executor should be competent, have time to carry out the various functions, and be trustworthy.
If nothing has been done in regard to probate, action should commence promptly by the executor retaining a Jamaican-based attorney-at-law, who will give the necessary guidance and provide the required services.
- Oran A. Hall, principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers personal financial planning advice and counsel. Email firstname.lastname@example.org