Talking about and planning for death can be intimidating, but if getting a Will isn’t high on the priority list this year, it should be! The reality is you just never know when you might rub shoulders with death. It’s best to be safe rather than sorry, isn’t it? Besides, wouldn’t you want to be in control of who benefits from all your hard work in life?
Dying without a Will
Drawing up a Will is about taking control of your estate and taking care of those you leave behind. If you die today without a Will, your estate will be distributed in terms of the law of intestate succession. That means that beneficiaries you don’t necessarily want to inherit might benefit, while those that you genuinely care about might be disadvantaged.
Attorney vs. DIY
It is advisable to have a person with the necessary knowledge and expertise, such as an Attorney draw up your will. Attorneys have expert knowledge that will ensure that your Will is clear, concise and reflects your true intentions. You don’t want an unnecessary error rendering your Will invalid, do you? Attorneys also understand tax and other financial implications that go hand in hand with dividing your estate, so for the best bang for your buck, it is worth it to have your estate properly planned.
In case you do decide to draw up a Will yourself, be warned- South African law has strict rules and procedures when it comes to Wills and places a lot of emphasis on the authenticity and validity. It’s not like anyone can call or send an email to the testator after their death, because, their well… dead.
Here are the basics to keep in mind:
1. The Will must be in writing. That means no plain handwritten or typed documents, oral wills or video recordings.
2. The Will must be signed by the testator (the person making the Will) on each page, as well as at the end of the document (last page).
3. The testator should sign the Will in the presence of 2 or more witnesses. These witnesses must be at least 14 years old, and competent to give evidence in court. It isn’t required that the witnesses know the content of the Will, just that they are witnessing that it is, in fact, the testator’s Will. Important to keep in mind is that no witness may inherit in the Will.
4. The witnesses must also, in the presence of the testator and each other sign the Will at the end of the document and not on each page.
5. Though not a requirement, it may be beneficial to place a date on you will. In the case that you leave behind more than one Will this will help determine which one was your last and final.
Single Vs. Married
One of the biggest misconceptions amongst singles is that it is not worth having a Will unless they get married and own property worth millions. The truth is if you earn a salary, have savings in the bank, own a few personal belongings, furniture, possibly a car, etc. you should consider having a Will drawn up, regardless of whether the total value of your property is R10 000 or R100 000. More and more people are involved in serious relationships and live with their partner without getting married for a period, or at all. After years of planning for the future and making financial decisions together, these couples often only realise the importance of a Will when it is too late. With no Will, one often sees the surviving partner left in an unfairly disadvantaged position.
It is important to revise an existing Will when significant events, such as marriage or the birth of your children, take place in your life. You would probably want to include your loved ones in your Will, and ensure that they are properly protected and cared for after you are gone. An outdated Will, could have unintended consequences, and result in a spouse or child not benefiting at all. If your Will was for example never updated after marriage, and you left all your belongings to a sibling, your sibling would benefit while your wife and children would be disadvantaged.
Bump in Salary
Important to remember is that as your wealth increases, your estate increases too. You might purchase additional property or make a few extra financial investments which your current Will doesn’t take into account. Should any of these properties or investments not be included in your Will, it might become the property of relatives you don’t want to benefit. The importance of an updated Will can not be stressed enough.
Why not make getting a Will or updating your current one a new years resolution you can keep. Simply get in touch with one of our caring experts.