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Estate Law 101 for the Caribbean Diaspora

Credit: Caribbean Migration

As a Caribbean migrant you belong to two or more societies at the same time. You may have born in Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines or even Trinidad and Tobago and for one reason or the other you would have moved to the United States, Canada or even to the U.K. and beyond. The challenge with this is you may still have assets in your “home country” i.e. your country of origin or you may have ageing parents back home who are looking to you for guidance as it relates to how best to dispose of their assets. In this article I will provide some key points to note when you are considering your estate plan as a Caribbean migrant.

A Will can contain assets in more than one jurisdiction.

By virtue of the process of resealing an individual can obtain a grant of Probate in more than one jurisdiction provided that the Will disposes of assets that are in more than one jurisdiction. This can be a lengthy and time-consuming process at least in some parts of the Caribbean region but it is still an option to consider.

You can have one Will in each jurisdiction.

Another option is to have a Will in each jurisdiction. Whether this option is suitable for you or not would depend on your peculiar circumstances. If for example, you have lots of assets in your home country be it financial or physical assets and the beneficiaries that you have in mind currently reside in your home country, then it would be a good idea to have a Will done in your home country dealing with those assets and another Will in your country of residence dealing with your US or Canadian assets as the case may be. If you elect this option, you will need to consult with a legal adviser in each jurisdiction to ensure that your wishes are carried out in accordance with the legislative framework of each jurisdiction.

Steps to take before preparing a Will.

A. Decide to make a Will

The first thing you would need to do is decide to make a Will and decide that you are going to follow the process through to the end. This is important because if your commitment isn’t strong enough you may back out when you read the work that is required for the other steps.

B. List your assets

Next, get a sheet of paper and list your assets. You can even use a notes app on your phone, whichever you feel more comfortable with. Your assets include:

(1) Property in your possession- both real (land) and personal

(2) Investments-Shares, unit trusts, credit union accounts, bonds, rental properties.

(3) Savings-Bank Accounts and Cash in hand.

C. List your liabilities

Make a list of the people and institutions that you are indebted to. This is important because, in the event of your passing, your liabilities would have to be paid first before your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries.

D. Decide who will be your Executor

Your Executor should be someone you trust and someone who is likely to outlive you. It should also be someone who you believe would carry out your final wishes honestly and to the best of their ability. This person would be responsible for applying for the grant of probate for your estate and for distributing the assets in accordance with your Will.

E. Determine who will be your beneficiaries

You need to think long and hard about who you are going to give what. If you are married, you are required by law to make reasonable provision in your Will for your spouse. If you have minor children or any other person who is dependent on you, you are required to provide for them in your Will. It is not recommended that you exclude close family members especially if they have assisted you during your lifetime. Such persons are likely to challenge the authenticity of your Will in court if they are not included.

F. Gather your relevant documents

After you have done all of your groundwork, you are now required to compile all of your relevant documents. This would include, title deeds, account numbers, type of accounts, name of financial institutions, insurance policy numbers, brokerage accounts. Added to this, you should also have the correct spelling of the names of all parties including your Executor and beneficiaries together with their addresses.

G. Book an appointment with your Attorney-at-Law

While in theory, a person can do a Will on their own, it is always advisable to get proper legal advice since there are certain statutory formalities that need to be complied with if your Will is to be valid. Your Attorney will take instructions from you and prepare your Will in accordance with those instructions. It would then be signed by you at a later date in the presence of two witnesses.

Disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as giving rise to an attorney-client relationship.

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Follow me on Medium Colin Denoon and on Twitter @ColinDenoon. Send questions, suggestions, and comments to colin.denoon@gmail.com.

Check out my podcast here:https://thelegalcornerpodcast.buzzsprout.com/

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