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My loved one has died, what should I do?

Legal Notes

WITH GABRIELLE GRANT

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

At some point we all must deal with someone close to us passing away, whether family member, business partner or friend. If someone near to you has died it is important to be armed with the correct information to make dealing with his/her death less overwhelming.

Here are some important steps to take after the death of a loved one:

 

1. Report the death

If your loved one died suddenly or violently, report the death to your nearest police station. If the death occurred naturally, report it to the medical doctor in whose care he/she most recently was, provided that his/her last visit was within three months prior to death.

 

2. Have the death registered

The death must be registered so that it can be legally recognised. Persons who can register the death include: -

• an occupier of the house in which the person died;

• adults causing the body to be cremated or buried;

• any adult, including the nearest relative, who was present at death; or

• any relative present during the deceased's last illness or residing in the same district as the deceased.

If your loved one died naturally, the doctor or attending physician at the hospital will issue a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD). The MCCD must be taken to the Registrar General's Department within five days of the death pronouncement for the death to be registered.

If your loved one died suddenly or violently an autopsy or post-mortem must be done for the police to issue a Burial Order. An officer will deliver the post-mortem to the Coroner's Court. You may then apply for a Certificate of Coroner (Form D) from the Coroner's Court, which you will have to take to the Registrar General's Department for the death to be registered.

 

3. Make Burial and Funeral Arrangements

Once the death is registered, your family may proceed with burial and funeral arrangements. It is recommended that you keep a record of all burial and funeral expenses, including original receipts, which will later be helpful since they can be taken into account by the Tax Administration Jamaica in assessing the death duties payable in the deceased's estate.

 

4. Apply for the Death Certificate

You will need this when settling the affairs of your loved one. A completed application form for the certificate may be submitted after the death is registered. It is advisable to get at least three (3) copies of the death certificate from the Registrar General's Department.

 

5. Secure the original documents of your loved one

Important documents that should be located and secured include the Last Will and Testament of the deceased, duplicate certificates of title, deeds to land, share certificates, marriage certificates and birth certificates. The Last Will and Testament will name one or more executors of your loved one's estate who will be responsible for carrying out the deceased's wishes as regards his/her body, solely held bank accounts, personal possessions and property. Where the deceased did not leave a will, the law of intestacy will apply, and one or more personal representatives of the deceased will have to be appointed to administer the estate of the deceased accordingly.

 

6. Note the Death of the Deceased

If your loved one owned assets jointly with another person, the right of survivorship will apply to those assets and they will not form a part of his/her estate. This means that the ownership of the asset has passed to the surviving joint owner(s). In the case of land, the deceased's death will need to be endorsed on the certificate of title to the property, and in the case of shares the share certificates will need to be transferred into the name of the surviving joint owner.

 

7. Engage the services of an attorney-at-law practising in the area of estates

An attorney-at-law should be engaged to represent the executors or personal representatives of the deceased's estate, to administer the estate according to the law and the terms of the deceased's will (if there is one). Steps that the attorney may assist with include: preparing the necessary documents to obtain a Grant of Representation in the estate from the relevant court; settling the death duties payable in the estate; settling the debts of the estate; and conducting the process of transferring property to the beneficiaries.

 

Gabrielle Grant is an associate at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon in the Property Department. She may be reached at gabrielle.grant@mfg.com.jm or through the firm's website www.myersfletcher.com. This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.