More than 86% of South Africans do not have a will in place and risk leaving those they love behind in turmoil with uncertainty and possibly debt. Drawing up a will can be a very sensitive and uncomfortable subject to broach but like taxes, death is inevitable and it is always better to be prepared.
Having an up-to-date will can protect those you leave behind from any ambiguities by leaving a signed and witnessed legal document that enables you to plan ahead and put certain things in place for your loved ones should you pass on. This includes appointing the executor of your estate, nominating a legal guardian to take care of minor children, limiting taxes payable on the deceased estate and outlining your wishes on how everything should be distributed.
If a person dies without a valid will they have no say as to who will benefit from their life’s work. Without a will, the deceased estate is distributed to the next of kin according to the Intestate Succession Act (Act 81 of 1987). This may result in one or more unintended persons benefitting from your estate, leaving those that you would have wished to inherit from you with less than you would have liked. You will also need to find someone to act as executor at this late stage, which may be unsettling for your loved ones.
By appointing an executor who is qualified to attend to the complex process of attending to your estate, you are ensuring that your estate will be correctly attended to (including settling your debts, taking care of any outstanding tax obligations, and distributing inheritances).
Drawing up a will should form part of a comprehensive estate planning exercise, and by consulting with a qualified financial adviser you will ensure that the terms of your will can actually be given effect to and that there are no unintended consequences regarding the administration of your estate.
At present there are many different sets of legal and accounting frameworks that can affect how your estate is executed and a professional consultant can help ensure that you take these into account and that your wishes can be given effect to.
To ensure that your will is valid, it needs to be in writing and signed on every page by you and two competent witnesses who are not beneficiaries or married to the beneficiaries of your estate.
In conclusion, you need to ensure that you write the date on your last will to avoid any confusion in case you have more than one will.