Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 30th 2014 Contents 4SBG NEWS
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 30 • 2014
It s the scenario no one likes to play
in their mind: lying on their
deathbed. The brave few who are
able to set the scene, probably see
themselves reflecting on their
achievements and their regrets. They
envision themselves surrounded by
distraught loved ones. But few are
able to extend their imaginations past the
point of dying and what happens after they
shuffle off this mortal coil.
As Benjamin Franklin once pithily observed,
there are only two certainties in life; death
being one of them. While many people plan
relatively well for the business of living, pro-
vision for the care of their affairs after they
die is another issue.
LexisNexis, the legal site, says that 55 per
cent of Americans do not have a will or any
type of estate planning in place. The corre-
sponding number for Trinibagonians could be
extrapolated from the number of stories one
can bring to mind of a friend, or a friend of
a friend, waiting on a grant or probate for a
will, or of legendary fights between relatives
squabbling over the property of someone who
left no will.
Why do a will?
Eduardo Martinez, of A Eduardo Martinez,
told the Sunday BG that having a will is an
act that will not only preserve the sanity of
living relatives, but also your hard-earned
assets. After death, it is likely that your property
will be disposed of in two ways: by probate
or by administration.
"With probate," said Martinez, "you actually
leave a will and you leave property to the
person whom you wish the property to go to
when you die."
Meanwhile, the administration process
occurs when one dies intestate or without a
leaving a valid will.
Melissa Inglefield, at M Hamel Smith & Co,
said in administration, property is disposed
of by court-appointed administrators.
"The heirs of the deceased s estate, typically
the deceased s parents, siblings, spouse or
children, will be responsible for administering
the estate by applying to the court for Letters
She said once an administrator is appointed,
they can then begin distributing the estate in
accordance with the Administration of Estates
Act, where typically, a surviving spouse receives
one half of the estate and children the remain-
ing half in equal shares.
But things are not always this simple. The
administration process is akin to a game of
dice, where items you have worked hard for
all your life can just as easily end up in the
hands of a loved one, or someone you didn t
With spouses and children automatically
set to get what was earned during a lifetime,
what happens to the assets of a couple that
is separated, or children who are financially
irresponsible acquire Letters of Administra-
"Then you see the problem of administra-
tion. That is the effect of administration. This
is the reason you have to do your work. Some-
one may get your assets, someone you did not
intend to get or inherit it. Or sometimes, you
may have a child, with drug or other problems
that would cause him to dissipate the asset
that you worked so hard for," said Martinez.
"So, you do a will to ensure that either, he
doesn t get, or that he gets the property on
A will is a legal recognised document detail-
ing how you would like your property to be
distributed in the event of death.
Martinez said the materials the will is written
on are immaterial, citing one extreme case
where someone s last will and testament was
written on an eggshell. What matters was
whether the will was valid in the eyes of the
"Normally, you require two witnesses. If
you don t have two witnesses, the will is invalid,
If you have a will with one witness, that is an
invalid will. You will end up in intestacy by
Both witnesses must sign at the foot of the
signature of the testator, or the person whose
will it is. Both must be present when the tes-
tator signs the will.
"One cannot leave the room, come back in
afterwards and just put a signature because
he saw what he thinks is the deceased s sig-
nature. In this situation, the only way a witness
can still sign this will, is to ask the testator
to affirm that it is his signature on the doc-
ument. Only then he can sign as a witness.
He cannot sign without affirmation."
Calling in the professionals
Martinez said owing to these and other
technicalities, he recommends that people get
professional help when doing wills even though
this is not strictly necessary.
Another issue that may present itself is the
way the property is distributed. Martinez said
the estate may not be distributed as efficiently
as it could be without a lawyer s advice. In
the case of real estate, Martinez said the
deceased can leave property in the form of
joint tenancy or tenancy in common.
"The thing about joint tenants is that as
Will you or won't you?
Continued on Page 5
Links Archive November 29th 2014 December 1st 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page