By Charndré Emma Kippie
Experiencing the passing of a loved one during your time on this Earth is inevitable. Despite any reservations you may have, whether this be financially or personally, it is essential that you create a plan of action for when this may occur. Proper financial planning and creating a Will, will ensure that your assets are distributed as you see fit, and that those closest to you will be provided for.
NO WILL IN PLACE?
Without having a Will in place, it is important to note that your estate will be broken up and shared in terms of the ‘law of intestate succession’. This means that those closest to you, whom you’d want to benefit from what you’ve left behind, will potentially have no legal entitlement to your assets. Having a Will drawn up also safeguards your ability to appoint legal guardians should you have children who are minors, and provides a written record and guideline of medical decisions should you become physically and/or mentally unable to communicate your wishes.
Going through the process of drawing up a Will can be unsettling; there are so many questions and legalities that need to be considered before making a definitive decision.
TIPS FOR PREPARING TO DRAW UP YOUR WILL
Drawing up a Will is part of what is known as ‘estate planning’. Your Will acts as a set of instructions you’ve confirmed on how you’d require your assets to be shared after you’ve passed. This formal document may prevent the nasty occasion where loved ones become conflicted over the distribution of your assets. It also ensures that the state will not be given the power to decide what happens to your estate.
- KNOW YOUR WORTH
First port of call is checking whether or not you’ll have the necessary liquidity/cash in your estate to fund all your expenses. This means that you will need to add up all your assets, such as property, personal vehicles, savings, shares on the stock exchange, and insurance policies that pay out after death, for example (all at current market value). Once you’ve done this exercise, you will then need to deduct all your liabilities and long-term debts from this amount. These deductions will include your bond and taxes. This is how you will calculate your current net worth.
- PREPARE FOR DISTRIBUTION OF ASSETS
After calculating your current net worth, you will now need to ensure that all the people who will be inheriting something from you (formally labelled as ‘beneficiaries), will get what you intended them to receive. This is where next of kin and marital regime will take priority. Your Will can ensure that your children are able to finance their education and future property investments. This document will also make sure your spouse is taken care of should you pass. One common misconception is that unmarried individuals do not need to have a Will – this is false. If you own any savings, property or have investments, you should have a Will to avoid issues later on, such as leaving a future partner at a disadvantage.
- COMPILING YOUR WILL
It is often thought that a lawyer is needed to create a basic will. Actually, you can in fact prepare one by yourself. An easy-to-complete Will Form may also be available at a nearby stationery shop.This document must be notarised and meet legal requirements of your province. In the event of any unusual circumstances or uncertainty, hiring a lawyer may be the better option, though. Should you appoint an executor — the individual who will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes set out in your Will — this person will need to be given a copy for safeguarding.
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A VALID WILL
- As a legal document, a Will must be drafted by a person who is 16 years or older.
- A Will may be typed or handwritten. All parties involved in drawing up a Will must be mentally sound and able to comprehend the nature and consequences.
- The Wills Act 7 of 1953 (“the Act”) stipulates that two competent witnesses sign the document. All witnesses need to be 14 years or older and may not be beneficiaries of the Will.
- The individual creating the Will (the testator), and all witnesses, are required to initial every page of the document and sign the final page – in each other’s physical presence.
- This legal document must be regularly updated in terms of new beneficiaries, legislation, and special instructions. An updated version of your Will must also be stored in a safe place that will be accessible to your loved ones and executor after your passing.
It is essential that your Will be put together by a legal professional, and regular updates be included over time to avoid invalidation. This document may seem stressful at first, but will provide your loved ones with peace of mind, making the process of moving on a little more easier, once you pass away. The only certainty we have in life is that death often comes when you least expect it. The least we can do is prepare for it – the sooner, the better.
You can find out more about creating a will at: https://www.gov.za/faq/justice-and-crime-prevention/how-to-make-will
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