June 06, 2016

Last week, this column focused on the formalities of making a will, but the content of your will is just as important. Your first duty is to think it through carefully, that is, what you want to say from the grave about your estate and then write it down. Yes, write down all that you own and then decide who should be the beneficiaries, your executors, your witnesses and who should keep your will.

You must first decide what is your name. This is not always easy. Funny, but true. Look at your birth certificate or passport. You may also consider in what name you own some of the things you own. So, your correct name is John Joe Brown, but you are also called Joe Brown and some of your land titles are in name Joe Brown and, in later years, you sign as J. Joe Brown, to the extent that your name on the last two Benz cars and the vacation home in Montego Bay is J. Joe Brown. In light of the above, your name in the will could be John Joe Brown, also known as Joe Brown, also known as J. Joe Brown.


Your next big decision is to determine who should be appointed as executor to gather and administer your estate as at the date of death. You may appoint more than one executors. Good friends, beneficiaries and family members are excellent choices. You should be careful to think about someone who is likely to have the energy and drive to instruct lawyers and accountants. The executor must also be able to deal with matters in court, if required to do so.

You can say who you wish to make arrangement for your funeral. For instance, you can direct, in your will, if you wish to be buried or cremated or what exactly what should happen to your remains.

If you have certificate of titles for your properties, you should make them available for the drafting of your will as this is necessary to ensure accuracy in the description of your property. The same thing would apply for your insurance policies, motor vehicles, bank accounts, among other things.


Should you have books, jewellery, watches, paintings and other personal items to be given to your beneficiaries, you should provide a list with a description of each item and the person who should receive these items.

In your will, you can make provision for your church or charity organisation or even for persons who you do not wish to name personally by saying, for instance: "The sum of $10,000,000 to Andrew Graham from my savings account at NCB to distribute in accordance with my instructions".

You may direct your executors to sell any property and share the proceeds amongst beneficiaries or direct that the beneficiaries take the items or properties for their own use absolutely or that they take in equal share, or you could divide the shares by way of percentage.

Another important decision is to decide on the two persons who should witness your will. At least one of the two witnesses should be around to sign documents to have your will probated. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the person is not nomadic, but can be easily found.

Now that your will is drafted and signed by you [testator] in the presence of the two attesting witnesses, it is important to think about how this important document will be stored and kept safely and in good condition until your passing. For the purpose of safe keeping, you may consider using the attorney-at-law who drafted the will, a justice of the peace, one of the executors, or you may even keep it yourself. What is important is that a few people know who has the will in safe keeping.

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