Sunday 8th May, 2008


Easy steps to make a will

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IF YOU DIE without a will, state law determines how your estate is shared among heirs—you have no say about the relative proportions.

Typically, people die without a will because they think it is difficult to do.

But a will is a simple legal document that you can do yourself, as long as you include certain basics.

It is customary to revoke any previous wills or codicils (amendments), and to begin with a full statement of your name and address in the territory where you live, as well as a declaration that you are of sound mind.

This is followed by a list of your assets and delegation of ownership to named heirs.

You may create joint ownership with tenancy in common or tenancy with right of survivorship.

You may even allocate an asset for use of an heir for a specific period of time, or for their use for life, after which such an asset reverts to your estate.

If you have heirs who are below the legal age, you will need to appoint legal guardians to look after their interests, and collect monies allocated to such minors.

If you have heirs who can die before you do, you will need to decide whether you want that heir’s share to pass to his estate, or whether that share returns to your estate.

If you make a division among grandchildren, would one of your children derive a greater benefit because he/she has more children?

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At the end of the body of the will, it is customary to appoint an executor, and to make provision for his resignation and some compensation.

It is also customary to appoint the executor to pay all debts, taxes, etc and to sell, invest and maintain the assets of the estate in good repair.

It is also necessary to allocate any “remainder” in the estate to someone. A remainder usually refers to unknown assets, or forgotten assets or income to the estate, as well as any other assets that may pass to the estate of the deceased in the future.

Sometimes people forget a bank account or a safety deposit box, or stocks and shares they hold. It may take years before such facts are uncovered, and the estate may have been deemed settled. Such a discovery can reopen the estate.

Two witnesses are necessary on the day you date and sign your will. The witnesses have no legal right to read your document.

Their purpose is to avow they saw you sign the document, and you were of sound mind and not under duress when you did.

Their signatures must be placed after your signature and next to the aforementioned statement of declaration of sound mind, etc.

Their addresses must be recorded on the document, as well as the date.

In addition, they must not be named as heirs in the will.

Your signature should be as close as possible to the last full stop in your complete bequests.

It is also now fashionable to leave instructions with respect to medical care or the cessation of such regimen, in the event of comatose or brain dead conditions.

While no one knows the time or place of death, we can put things in place for a long and fruitful life.

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Designed by: Randall Rajkumar-Maharaj · Updated daily by: Nicholas Attai