If you don’t have a Will, you won’t have any control over what happens to your assets and possessions when you die.
You don’t need a lawyer to draw up a Will – you can find a template here – but an attorney can help you to make sure that your Will is legally valid. Every year the Law Society of South Africa holds a National Wills Week when a group of attorneys help people to draw up a basic Will for free.
You can name an executor – the person who will carry out what the Will says. If you have any children under 16 you should name a guardian for them. Remember that your type of marriage (in or out of community of property) will affect your Will.
Some of the requirements for a Will to be valid are:
- It needs to be written down.
- It needs to include the details of both your beneficiaries and the assets you want them to inherit.
- You need to sign every page.
- The signature needs to be witnessed by 2 witnesses, over 14 years of age, who aren’t beneficiaries or executors of the Will. They both need to be present when you sign and they need to sign the Will as well.
You will need to update your Will after major changes in your life, e.g. marriage, divorce (within 3 months), children, new assets etc. or if there are changes to the law. Always date the Will so that it’s clear which one is the latest.
Store your original signed Will in a safe place as this will need to be submitted to the Master of the High Court upon your death.
If you don’t have a Will then your possessions will be shared out among your family according to the Intestate Succession Act. This will mean that your assets may not go to the people you want, there can be delays and it could cost more. Also, not having a valid Will can cause arguments among your grieving family members. So drawing up a Will helps everyone in the long run.
This article does not constitute financial or legal advice and is not to be acted on as such.