Before Writing a Will - 7 Things You Must Know

Andre Robb

Founder & CEO

November 29, 2020

1. You can be ready to write your Will today

Writing a Will is not to be taken as a light, everyday chore, because it is certainly not the kind of thing you do everyday. Will-makers tend to have a lot of life experiences in common, so if you meet any one of these criteria, then you too should create a Will:

  1. You are at least 18 years old, this is the age requirement set out by the Wills Act - Jamaica’s law that sets out the details of wills, etc. in the country.
  2. You have children, whether biologically or by adoption. A will allows you to appoint guardianship and stipulate other ways to safeguard the wellbeing of your offspring
  3. You own property, real estate, business interests and other major assets
  4. You have a job, especially one that contributes to a pension scheme or in which you are permanently appointed
  5. You have money in the bank in the form of savings or investments.

Once you’ve been impressed that having a Will in place is one of the wisest decisions you can make as a responsible adult, then it is usually just a matter of telling yourself that you are not going to be putting this off any longer.

2. Dying without a Will is just NOT cool

That’s putting it mildly. Given the relative simplicity of creating a Will (and we've come along to make it even easier), far fewer people should be dying without having made one. Dying intestate, which is the term that applies to anyone who dies without a Will or any other form of legally binding estate plan, creates additional stress and work for one’s family. Without a Will in place, family members may not have a comprehensive list of the assets and interests of their loved one, and the state has to step in to apply its rules of intestacy to distribute the assets that are known or have been found. Apart from that, families are left with a host of decisions that could have been avoided if there was a Will to make this part of bereavement that much easier.

3. Making a Will does not require a lawyer

In Jamaica, the law does not state that only Wills drafted personally by an attorney will be considered to be valid and legally-binding. So, that's what we mean when we say you do not need a lawyer to write a Will. We hasten to add, however, that there are some circumstances where legal advice is highly recommended. We started Will and Tomorrow, because we know that the overwhelming majority of Jamaica's adult population will be adequately served by being able to customize their Will, using our framework that covers all the aspects that a comprehensive Will must contain. On top of that, we’ve gone a step further to add a round of human revision by experts. As far as the options for creating a Will goes in Jamaica, there is the handwritten Will, then the Will form - both on the extremely inexpensive end and then you have the lawyer-drafted Will on the opposite, expensive end. With the introduction of our online service Will and Tomorrow is the first and (currently) only in its class, providing a modern and far superior upgrade, making it a favourite among a broad range of citizens.

4. Preparation for writing your Will is as easy as knowing what is required

Our easy to use step by step app covers all aspects of your Will in seven (7) steps. You get through these steps easily if you know what information they are asking for, and having the information ready to input as needed.

Here is a list of details you will need:

  1. List of real assets and their details - houses/buildings, property, motor vehicles
  2. List of accounts, types and where they are maintained - you don't need to input account numbers, just that you have a savings and a chequing account at Sagicor Ocho Rios, for instance.
  3. Executors - two people that you’ll ask to lead out in honouring the wishes found in your Will
  4. Beneficiaries - those that are important to you, that you want to leave an asset or gift to, this list may include individuals and organizations like charities, churches and schools
  5. Guardians - if you have minor children, who do you want to be responsible for them in your absence?
  6. Final arrangements - how would you like your family to honour your memory when you pass?

Click to Download Your Will-making Prep List

5. Thinking about your executors and guardians takes some time

An executor is someone you choose to see to the fulfillment of the wishes you have outlined in your Will. They are tasked with the financial, legal and moral obligations involved in settling your estate, so you should choose someone that is trustworthy and capable of such tasks. Our laws require that two executors are named. It is acceptable that the two persons you name as executors may also be beneficiaries in your Will (in a lot of cases the Will maker (testator) names their spouse, adult siblings or adult children as executors), and just as equally, you don't have to name your executors as beneficiaries. Once you’ve identified the two persons you think will make good executors, contact them and see if they agree ahead of starting your Will on Will & Tomorrow.

Similarly, great thought must be given to the person or persons you ask to be the guardian of your minor children or adult dependent that are in your care. It is always best that the person you choose is the person that the child’s other parent chooses. You don’t nominate the child’s other parent here, since parental rights are automatically in place once a parent is alive.

Once preparations are done ahead of starting to complete your Will on our app, we estimate that unmarried adults without children may take around 20 minutes to complete forms, while others may take about 30 minutes on average.

These folks are smiling because they all have Wills.

6. Witnesses needed to make Will legally binding

Depending on where you live, there are different laws that govern what makes your Will legally binding. In Jamaica, you are required to be at least 18 years old when you create the Will in writing. You should be of sound mind and not making your Will under pressure from someone else. The Will must be signed by you in the presence of two or more witnesses, who also sign the document at the same time. Your witnesses don't have to read your Will nor know the details of the Will in order to act as witnesses, they are witnessing your signing and not the content of the document. e-Signatures are not accepted on Wills in Jamaica. And while a recent update to a specific law allow witnesses to also be beneficiaries, once it is so declared, we at Will and Tomorrow recommend that your witnesses are NOT included in your Will as a beneficiary or any other party, just get two brand new people to sign your Will with you.

7. Storing and updating your Will is super important

Once everything has been settled- your Will is signed and is now legally binding, then you must store your Will in a place of safekeeping, but not so safe that no-one can find it when it is needed. It is also important to keep your Will up-to-date with major life changes that may affect your plan. Will and Tomorrow allows you to update your Will unlimitedly in the 1st year after it has been created. After that first year, we'll likely have a small charge for changes, but we haven't settled on that bit just yet.

Now that you know these things, ready to get started?