Real Estate Realities

Last will and testament

This subject is one that we despise talking about, as it reminds us that one day we are going to leave this world. I often joke with my friends that “we are not going to get out of this alive”. If we are aware of this reality, it’s only fitting that we have a will in place.

We have heard (and some have experienced) horror stories of someone losing a parent or loved one. All of the relatives – sons, daughters, brothers and sisters – come out of the woodwork to claim their piece of the deceased assets, only to find out he or she did not leave behind a will. It is at that moment that families fight over assets they had hoped to acquire. I find it amusing, however, that we never see them fighting over the deceased debts!

All of this fussing and fighting among relatives and court appearances, yes I said court, could have been avoided had the deceased taken a few minutes to write a proper will, leaving very clear instructions as to who gets what after his/her death. A will not only consists of your assets, but also leaves other specific instructions, such as naming a guardian for your children, in the event that you pass away before they reach adulthood, or even preferred arrangements for your funeral. All of these are important decisions that you don’t want to leave to chance.

We are not going to live forever and we don’t know when the good Lord will call us home; it could be next year, 10 years from now or tomorrow. One thing we do know is death is a road we all are going to travel someday, so do the sensible thing and write a will.

The last thing you want is the court to decide who gets your hard-earned properties, funds and your personal items, such as your jewelry or even shares in your company. Make a detailed will and decide who gets what.

To take it a step further, if you are getting up in age or have an illness, start disposing of your assets while you are alive, leaving enough to see you through your old age. I often tell my children, I will do my best to enjoy my life and my assets in my senior years by doing whatever makes me happy. Whatever is left is theirs. I know some folks may say I am being a bit rash, but like most parents I have sacrificed a lot for my children, giving them the best education I can, helping them to get started in life, but now it’s my time to enjoy the fruits of my hard labor.

To avoid any fighting amongst your children, and them having to go through the long legal process of probate, I would also suggest that you give to them now what you would like to leave them when you go to the pearly gates, or the place we all fear, hell.

Section 38(B) of the Value-Added Tax (Amendment) Act, 2019 permits an application for transfers of realty between spouses, and parents and children to be zero-rated for value-added tax (VAT) purposes. The caveat though is that the person transferring must have obtained the realty within seven years from the date of the proposed transfer. If you have property that you want to transfer to a spouse or child, I would suggest you do it now, as there is no VAT implemented in this process.

In closing, make several copies of your will and get yourself a good executor who will see your wishes through without fear from the relatives. Jamal Davis of Oxford Law Chambers is an attorney that can assist you with your last will and testament. I would suggest you give him a call. He, along with others in his profession, are qualified to write wills that clearly state your wishes, and in a way that no misunderstandings can emerge. Seek assistance and get your affairs in order before it’s too late.

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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