Jamaicans are encouraged to become familiar with and to utilise a host of estate planning tools to improve the process of estate administration after death.
In addition to making a will, persons can employ other strategies that will direct how assets are distributed. Deputy Administrator General at the Administrator General’s Department (AGD), Stacie Ann Carty, speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on February 15, said insurance policies are an excellent tool to have in place.
“So, an insurance policy is one of a cadre of tools that you can have in your arsenal. What you have to remember is if you have an insurance policy and you have a named beneficiary on your insurance policy, upon death, once you do the physician’s statement and produce a death certificate, the funds can be immediately paid to your beneficiary. If it was that you did not have a beneficiary named, the money will go to your estate, but that is a longer process,” Mrs. Carty said.
She also noted that insurance policies can give beneficiaries instant access to funds that may be needed in a timely manner.
Mrs. Carty mentioned additional strategies persons can use in life to make asset distribution easier after death.
“We also look at how you hold your property. Some persons do joint accounts in a bank account, so that persons can get access upon death. We always caution, though, that with most joint accounts, persons will have access to them during life, which can produce another problem if it’s not properly managed. We suggest that you do joint ownership also of your real estate. You can do a joint tenancy, so that once one person dies, the property passes to another,” Mrs. Carty explained.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Administrator General emphasised that while these other tools are effective, the will can address the distribution of other assets; some of the other tools may not.
“There are many assets that you may own that you don’t even know you own. So, you will need the will to distribute it. If you think about it, if you’re employed, you have your NHT refunds. If it is that you were to die before the payday, you have unpaid salaries, you might have compensation for vacation leave that wasn’t taken during life that has accrued and needs to be collected,” she advised.
“So, there are various things that you may not even consider that fall into your estate. These are also things that we look into during our investigative process, so, yes, you do need the will. Also, you could have been gifted something from somebody else’s estate that you’re not even aware of that falls into your residue. So, a will is definitely important, but there are also other tools such as the life insurance policy that we advocate for estate planning,” Mrs. Carty said.