As the BVI and almost all the world is spending time under various types of Covid-19 Lockdown, now may be a good opportunity to review your estate plan.
Estate planning is simply a way to ensure that your assets are dealt with in a manner that is in line with your wishes should you become incapacitated for reasons such as the coronavirus. If you own assets, whether it is raw land, a house, jewelry, or a few dollars it is important that you have an estate plan making provisions for any eventualities.
Not having an estate plan can expose your family to the consequences of unsatisfactory decision making or cause those who you would like to provide for, to lose their benefit.
A basic estate plan should contain at a minimum 2 key documents your Last Will and Testament and a Power of Attorney.
Last Will and Testament
A will is a legal document that sets forth the wishes of the person making the will regarding the distribution of their property and the care of any minor children. If you die without a will, your intentions or wishes may not be followed and your assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy which may not necessarily be what you would have intended.
There are a number of legitimate reasons why you should create a will:
- A will gives you, the owner of the property, the power to treat the property as you would want it dealt with. For example, you may want certain property to remain in your family and pass on to your children and grandchildren. One way to secure this is to create a will with a clause which states that the property is to be given to X for his lifetime benefit, it is not to be sold but to pass on to his children who shall hold it for the benefit of their children and whose children should hold it for the benefit of their children and on and on. Such a clause prevents the beneficiary from selling the property and provides for succession once there are other successive family members.
- You can disinherit persons who may have otherwise been entitled to inherit if you did not leave a will. Remember if you die without a will then the laws of intestacy determine who gets a share of your estate.
- Generally, you are at liberty to donate a part or all of your property to whomever you choose. You may not be at liberty to will away matrimonial property.
- A will is a safety instrument that protects your assets in that you can distribute to persons who you think are best suited to get and deal with the assets in the event of your sudden passing
Power of Attorney
The second key estate planning document is a power of attorney. Your power of attorney is a legal document you use to allow another person to act for and on your behalf. It is like you are appointing an agent. You have the option of doing a general power or a limited Power of Attorney. For example, if you are selling your house, but unable to attend the closing, you can give someone the power to sign the transfer in your absence. This is a limited power of attorney limiting the activity that your agent/ attorney can do on your behalf.
The general power of attorney is more broad in scope. It enables your agent to do just about any lawful business on your behalf. As an example, your attorney may have access to your bank accounts, and collect rent from your rental apartments.
Your power of attorney may also have a healthcare component. This allows your agent to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you fall ill and no longer can make decisions for yourself.
Land Title Documents
It may also be useful at this time to review your land title documents and determine if you wish to add any other names on the title. If you are the sole legal owner of the property you can add whoever’s name you wish to add to the register. That name can be added as a joint proprietor and as a proprietor in common. The former makes you a co-owner of the property and upon one person’s passing, the estate belongs to the other party. As a proprietor in common, you hold a share in the property, and upon passing the property forms part of your estate and will be distributed according to your will or the rules of intestacy if you have no will.
Our office can assist you with protecting your property and other estate planning documents. For more information contact us at 284 494 8658 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.