Avoid the heartache and headache!
This year, National Wills Week is from 17th to 21st September, and is a time when participating attorneys in South Africa will draft basic wills for free. If you haven’t already written a will, this presents the perfect opportunity to do so before it’s too late.
Writing a will could make an enormous difference to your family in the future, and it is an easily achievable goal that will give you the peace of mind that you can take care of your loved ones after you’re gone.
Lots of people put off writing a will because they mistakenly believe that it is a difficult task. However, the process doesn’t have to be complicated if you work with a professional who has the expertise to ensure that your will covers all key factors and complies with all your wishes; then is correctly drafted, witnessed and signed with no room for misinterpretation.
It is important that the person who drafts your will also has the necessary knowledge to ensure that it meets all legal requirements, so that your will is valid. A practising attorney is a qualified law professional who can also advise you on any problem that may arise.
Will I, won’t I?
If you have made a valid will, once you pass away, your assets will be disposed of in line with your wishes. This division of your estate is called "freedom of testation".
On the other hand, if you depart without leaving a will, you could cause a lot of unnecessary heartache and headaches to the people you leave behind. If you don’t leave a valid will, your assets will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. This generally ensures that your possessions are transferred to your spouse and offspring, but certain problems can easily arise if you die intestate.
The intestacy laws in South Africa at the time of your death will dictate what happens to your estate and, given the nation’s instability, there is no guarantee that they will be as fair as the provisions in place now. In a country where corruption, poor governance and deficient administrative systems are order of the day, would you be happy knowing your hard-earned money could easily end up lining the wrong pockets?
Without clear directions as to distribution, it is likely that at least some of your assets will not go where you would like them to. Not only may they not be left to the people of your choice, but a lack of instructions could also cause conflict amongst your loved ones at an emotionally vulnerable time. Without a will, it may take a long time for an executor to be appointed, and it can result in additional and unnecessary costs. A failure to do any estate planning also means that your estate may be subject to a hefty tax bill, which you have the power to lessen considerably if you seek professional advice and make sufficient preparations before you pass.
Never underestimate the importance of drafting a will. And, once you have made one, you should be sure to review and update it at least once a decade, as well as after any significant life changes, such as having a child or getting married/divorced.
Don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting if you require more information, or wish to discuss your financial situation before taking advantage of this year’s National Will Week by drafting a basic will with the help of a participating attorney. Just be sure to contact your local provincial law society beforehand to check whether an attorney is reputable.
(Information gathered from lssa.org.za and infinitysolutions.com.)