Sunday 10th April, 2005


Having the will

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In 2548 BC, some 1,200 years before Prophet Moses brought the Commandments that honoured parents, a testamentary disposition of property was left in Egypt, witnessed by two scribes, and written on papyrus. In this document property was transferred to the wife of the deceased, and a guardian was named for children who were minors.

Since then, States (government powers) have devised their own laws with respect to testamentary disposition. If a person dies without a Will, he dies "intestate," and locally, the State divides his property between wife and children, in proportion of one-third and two thirds respectively.

It would be necessary for the claimant or claimants to file for Letters of Administration from the Courts, before property can be distributed. There then follows a period of six weeks during which there is an advertisement in the official news of Parliament, and in the daily newspaper. This advertisement is notice to all, that the estate is being claimed.

It also works as advice for other claimants to file their claims, if they believe they have some legal right to property in the estate. This will include persons/institutions who lent money to the deceased, Board of Inland Revenue etc.

Banks will freeze the accounts held in the name of the deceased solely, until such time as the Courts decide who gets what. Lending institutions will also “call in” their loans eg motorcar and mortgages.

Evidence of relationship

This process of getting Letters of Administration can take longer than a year, while claimants begin to assemble the documents that represent their claims/ownership of the deceased ie the deeds, certificates of ownership, bank books, insurance polices, etc, as well as liabilities, eg loans.

In the case of spouse and children, evidence of relationship must be furnished.

The length of time spent in assembling the documents can be extended further, due to the element of emotional loss and a sense that money cannot replace the human being who has departed. However, financial need eventually propels action!

With respect to insurance polices and individual annuity policies, the designation of “Estate” requires that the insurer await the courts for a document by which means the rightful beneficiaries can be recognised by the insurer company. This could result in a long wait before the heirs receive the proceeds of Insurance policies.

However, insurance policies allow for the direct disbursement of all proceeds, within a few days of death, through the provision of a “named beneficiary” designation. In fact, my experience is that the Insurance cheque, for named beneficiaries, is usually the first cheque that is delivered to the family of the deceased. And, with a good agent this usually takes place within a few days of the death.

If the deceased dies with a will, there is also a period of time during which the executor will apply for probate, assemble the estate, and begin disbursements.

There are two important points to remember in writing the will. With respect to witnesses, a witness cannot be an heir. If a witness to the will is named to inherit any portion of the estate, the will is void. Secondly, with respect to married people, if the marriage was dissolved by divorce after the will was witnessed, the will is void. In both cases, then, the course will be: Letters of Administration.

In the Arab culture, 1400 years ago, distinct inheritances equations became law. What is peculiar about these laws is that provision was made not only for the descendants and spouse of the deceased, but provision was also made for the ascendants, the parents, of the deceased.

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