Implementation of ‘Dead lef’ law something to shout about
The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice
We are led in our thinking to the above quote by Theodore Parker, the American transcendentalist, as we join the Government, the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) and Jamaicans all over in celebrating the implementation of amendments to the Administrator General’s Act by the Administrator General’s Department.
It is always a happy moment to see a project started by one Administration carried forward by a succeeding Administration — as we are now seeing with the Administrator General’s Act, which we loosely call the ‘Dead lef’ law, precisely because that will resonate with the thousands of Jamaicans impacted by it.
The Act was passed under the PNP in 2015, piloted by Justice Minister Mark Golding who, understandably, is preening somewhat to see the implementation of something that will bring greater balance to the management of properties of persons who have died intestate.
"This bold and unprecedented move will make the administration of money and property held in the estates of deceased persons easier," Mr Golding says in a press statement. And we agree.
Indeed, it might have come too late for thousands who have gone to an early grave in disputes, over long generations, about property with conflicting claims, hence the term ‘dead lef’. But it is hoped that for those who are alive and are faced with the emotional stress and trauma of families torn asunder, the improved law will bring great relief.
Some of these estates, described as multi-generational, have seen warring family members stuck in legal battles for decades, as generation after generation fail to untangle ownership rights issues and navigate court procedures over property left behind. Among those are properties which are never claimed and no one benefits.
Mr Golding emphasises, and rightly so, that the innovative procedures and provisions of the 2015 legislation would empower the Administrator General to distribute the assets of these multi-generational estates to the current generation of these families, positively impacting the lives of tens of thousands of Jamaicans.
In commending the Office of the Administrator General, Mr Golding noted: "This initiative will, at long last, free up the ‘dead lef’ properties of thousands of Jamaican families, whose prior generations died without having valid wills. This significant emancipatory step takes Jamaica closer to becoming an ‘ownership society’ rooted in social justice, for which the PNP has always advocated."
Importantly, he adds, that bit of social legislation will further Jamaica’s growth agenda by facilitating the productive use of more of the country’s assets and the creation of direct and indirect employment.
On a note of caution, we suggest that Jamaicans make the writing of wills an everyday practice. Even with all its improvements, the law cannot foresee all the problems which will arise from people dying intestate. After all, prevention is always better than cure.