Understanding the Law
June 7, 2019
A Will and Related Matters

Last week we looked at the role of an executor in a will. This week we would look at other associated matters. Some owners of properties would like to share their estate with their children before death and could give an inter vivos gift in the form of a deed of gift.

A document of the transfer is required under the law. A deed is made out and the original is deposited at the Land Registry. Some parents are hesitant because of the fear of becoming destitute during the latter part of their lives. In addressing this problem, a parent could give parts but not all of his or her estate in this manner in order to have sufficient in later days. We can recall the story in the Bible of the prodigal son who wanted his share of his father’s estate during his lifetime. The father gave him. Children sometimes help in the family business or livelihood and expect to inherit a share of the family’s property. Some parents might think that the children do not deserve a share because of a child’s behaviour or neglect of parent. There are so many different reasons why a parent might not consider a child worthy of inheritance. Long ago parents who felt that children did not deserve an inheritance would leave a gift of a glass of water and one dollar in their will. On the other hand, there are parents who want to be regarded as “a wise man/woman” and would therefore act according to the Bible, which says that a wise man leaves inheritance for his children’s children.

In today’s world, no one wants to start from rock bottom and an inheritance could help to make a solid foundation and a good start.

There are items that could be passed on to a person without going through the will, for example, money in a joint account. You must make sure you understand the policy of the bank when you place another person’s name to your account. You might want the other person to withdraw for you when you are ill or unable to do so for yourself. You do not want to have to write a letter every time you want money, so you decide to place another name to your account. You are now in an “and/or” situation. If you no longer want the person’s name to your account, the bank will insist that you get written permission from that person to remove the name even though it is your account. The bank works on the basis that both persons could deposit in the account. You could get some protection against unauthorized withdrawal by the other person if you leave a note with the bank that monies should not be paid without the passbook. The only way to get out of the transaction without having the written permission is to withdraw the money from the account and open another account. The money could be paid to the other person or persons named on the account without having to pass through a will when a person dies.

A joint account presupposes that the money deposited belongs to either person named on the account. If there is no other person named besides the person who owns the account that person can convey via a will or it could be obtained by beneficiaries through administration. Make sure your bank explains its policy to you when you save monies with it.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: [email protected]