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What Makes A Will Valid In Jamaica?

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Tax_office_mobay_western_mirror.jpgWhat Makes A Will Valid In Jamaica?

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

They say the only things you can be 100% sure of are taxes and death. So, while we work hard to create the life of our dreams and leave a great legacy behind, we also have to think about how we do so, and the best way, in my opinion, is by leaving a will.

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Now, I know here in Jamaica, traditionally we have the habit of passing down our assets simply by word of mouth and just passing it down in the family… without documentation.

Things and times have changed, and more of us have started to consider creating our wills but may be unsure what to do, or where to start.

What is a Will?

A will, also known as a testament, is a legally binding document specifying how your assets and properties should be distributed after your death. It allows you to dictate who will inherit your belongings and ensures that your wishes and instructions are followed.

Why Do You Need a Will?

Why do you need a will? Why not just leave it in the hands of your families and friends to distribute as they please? There are numerous reasons why having a will is essential, especially in Jamaica:

  • Asset Distribution: A will allow you to determine how your assets will be distributed among your beneficiaries, ensuring that your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes.
  • Guardianship: If you have minor children, a will enables you to appoint a guardian who will take care of them in the event of your death.
  • Avoiding Conflict: A clear and legally binding will help prevent disputes among family members over the distribution of assets. Yes, writing a will will end this traditional curse of fighting over unwilled land among family members.
  • Tax Planning: Proper estate planning through a will can minimise tax liabilities for your beneficiaries.
  • Peace of Mind: Creating a will provides peace of mind, knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes.

What Makes a Will Valid:

Just like everywhere else in the world, Jamaica has specific legal requirements that must be met for a will to be considered valid:

  • Capacity: The testator (the person making the will) must be over the age of eighteen and of sound mind.
  • Writing: The will must be in writing, whether handwritten, typewritten, or computer-generated.
  • Signature: The testator must sign the will at the end in the presence of at least two witnesses.
  • Witnessing: The witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator, and each other, to attest to its validity.
  • Content: The will must clearly express the testator's wishes regarding asset distribution and other relevant matters.
  • Revocation: A will may be revoked by marriage, by the execution of a new will, or by the intentional destruction of the existing will.

How to Write a Will

While it is possible to draft a will without legal assistance, it is highly recommended to consult with an attorney-at-law to ensure that your will is properly executed and legally binding. However, if you choose to write your own will, follow these general guidelines:

  • Start by listing all your assets and liabilities.
  • Clearly identify your beneficiaries and specify what they will inherit.
  • Appoint an executor who will be responsible for administering your estate.
  • Include any specific instructions or conditions regarding asset distribution.
  • Sign the will in the presence of witnesses, and ensure they also sign in your presence.

Finding a Will:

If a person passes away and you believe they had a will, there are steps you can take to locate it:

  • Search the deceased's personal belongings and safe deposit box.
  • Contact their attorney or legal advisor, if known.
  • Check with the Probate Registry for registered wills.
  • Inquire with family members or close friends who may know the will's whereabouts.

A will is a vital legal document that ensures your wishes are carried out regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. By understanding the importance of a will, the legal requirements for validity, and the process of drafting and executing a will, you can take proactive steps to protect your estate and provide for your loved ones.

Whether you choose to seek legal assistance or draft your own will, it is essential to prioritise proper estate planning to safeguard your legacy and provide peace of mind for your family.

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References & Sources For What Makes A Will Valid In Jamaica?

  1. 1gs (2023) Making A will in Jamaica – you’re not forever young, Myers, Fletcher & Gordon. Available at: (Accessed: 27 February 2024).
  2. Make a will " administrator general’s department (no date) ADMINISTRATOR GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT. Available at: (Accessed: 27 February 2024).
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