A will is especially important if you need to make provision for your dependants. The last thing you want your grieving loved ones to have to go through after you die is the delay and expense of a legal fight over your estate.
Your will sets out how you would like your assets to be distributed after you die. If you don’t have a valid will, your assets (less your liabilities) will be divided among your family members according to a formula. For example:
- If you are married but have no children, your entire estate will go to your spouse; and
- If you are single and have no children and only one of your parents is still alive, half of your estate will go to your surviving parent and the other half will be divided among the descendants of your deceased parent.
If you have a will but it is not properly prepared, it can be declared completely or partially invalid and the law of intestate succession will apply to the invalid portion of your will.
- Is your will valid? For your will to be valid, it must be signed by you and two witnesses who are older than 14 and who are not beneficiaries or spouses of the beneficiaries of your will. Check that your will has been signed and witnessed in the right places. In terms of the Wills Act, you must sign every page. Witnesses are required to sign the last page only.
- Is your will up to date? You may find that your circumstances and/or your wishes have changed since you drafted your will. Legislation that affects your will may also have changed. Your financial planner and/or your lawyer should review your will and your estate plan every year.
- Where is your original will? You may know where your original will is kept, but you need to tell someone close to you so that when you die your family can find your original will. If your original will cannot be found, a High Court order will have to be obtained before the Master of the Court can accept a copy of your will. This will lead to additional delays and costs in finalising your estate.You should have signed duplicate originals of your will. You can print out your will four times and have all four copies signed and witnessed. Each copy will be considered an original because it bears original signatures. You can then arrange for yourself, your financial planner, your executor and a family friend to keep a copy.
- Have you named a guardian for your minor child? If you have named someone as your child’s guardian and you want that person to receive and manage funds on behalf of your child, you must stipulate this in your will to prevent money or proceeds being paid into the Guardian’s Fund.
- AND LASTLY – APPOINT A COMPETENT EXECUTOR!!!