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Is will made in England valid in Jamaica?

Published:Sunday | April 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Oran A. Hall, Contributor

I currently live in England and considering making a will in respect of my property and assets in Jamaica. Can I make a valid Will in England with a United Kingdom solicitor? Can I write the will in London and get it approved in Jamaica?

Please advise me on how to proceed.

Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to your reply.

- Pat

PFA: A will made abroad is valid in Jamaica if the property to be distributed is located here. If it is made in England or another Commonwealth country relating only to property in Jamaica, it can be probated as if it was executed in Jamaica.

Although it is not essential to employ the services of an attorney or solicitor, as the case might be, it is the wise thing to do, especially if there are complicated issues to address.

Going beyond your question, though, if it covers property in Jamaica and another Commonwealth country, it can be probated in either country and resealed in the other.

An application to the Supreme Court of Jamaica for resealing should be accompanied by a certified copy of the probate and will. An alternative is to make a will in respect of the property in each country. Each should say that the other, which covers assets in the other jurisdiction, is binding.

It should be clear that the assets in each will are separate from those in the other; there should be no overlapping. The words 'last will and testament' and 'I revoke all former wills' should be omitted so as not to make the other will of no effect.

The basic clauses of a will are: 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 - who distributes the assets of the deceased according to instructions contained in the will and is the only person or institution authorised to apply to the court for probate of 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.

A will may also include other clauses addressing such issues as survivorship, investment discretion, life interest in a specific asset, and appointment of guardians if there are children who are minors.

For a will to be valid, it must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. Neither the witnesses nor their spouses should be beneficiaries.

The witnesses must be able to sign their names and must sign the will in the presence of each other and the testator. Their names and addresses should be legible and the will should be dated.

It is sensible to make a will wherever you are and wherever your assets are located. It empowers you to determine how your assets are distributed after your death. It saves time and cost and reduces family squabbles.

Oran A. Hall, a member of the Caribbean Financial Planning Association and principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers free counsel and advice on personal financial