Ensuring you have a valid will can make all the difference to your family when you pass away. Without it, the laws of intestate succession come into play. This means your estate will be divided according to a specified formula by law.
A will is a crucial part of your estate and financial planning, as it stipulates how you want your assets to be dealt with on your death. Proper estate planning will ensure your estate is set up in a tax-efficient way that not only benefits you during your lifetime, but also your beneficiaries after your death. It is worthwhile to get professional advice whilst drawing one up.
Things to remember when drafting a will:
• Keep the wording simple.
• When referring to a person, use their full name and a short description, for example ‘my nephew, John Doe’.
• Avoid using vague terms such as ‘cash’.
• Understand each clause in the drafted document.
• Make sure the will reflects your wishes.
• Make sure your will reflects your current situation at all times.
• If you have a complicated will, make sure it is set up by a person with expertise.
A will should contain the following:
• Your full names;
• The beneficiaries of your estate and the inheritance each is to receive;
• The setting up of a trust (for example, if beneficiaries are under the age of 18) and details regarding the powers of trustees;
• The nominated guardian to a minor child;
• A nominated executor. It may also nominate someone as trustee.
You, the Testator (male) or Testatrix (female)
Need to sign each page of the will, together with two witnesses. Any alteration also needs to be signed in this manner. The place and date of signing must be written at the end of the document.
This must be someone who has no interest in the will. Their signatures merely acknowledge that they saw you sign the will. They do not have to know its contents. Any potential beneficiary or their spouse should not be a witness when signing your will.
Appoint alternate heirs
It is always wise to include alternate heirs in your will. If you do not nominate alternate heirs, your intestate heirs (nearest blood relatives) will inherit your estate.
Reviewing of your will
Your will should be reviewed periodically, especially when there has been changes in your status or circumstances, or those of your beneficiaries, i.e. marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, etc. It should also be reviewed after any changes in legislation that could affect your estate.
It is best to advise your family members of the following:
• The identity of the person whom you have nominated as your executor;
• That your executor should be notified immediately in the event of your death;
• The whereabouts of your will;
• Your wishes regarding funeral arrangements;
Whom to contact if you wish to donate organs or tissues.
It is best to seek expert and professional advice when you want to draft or review your will. Attempting to do it yourself could result in the will being invalid or cause unintended consequences due to incorrect wording used.
Download a template for your will:
August 1, 2016
Grant van Zyl