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Think of your Last Will and Testament as a final love letter to your partner, children or family. Not in the usual sense of the word but rather as a note from the grave that will bring comfort in a terrible time of grief. They will know because you left a Will that you cared enough to take the time to make provision for them and to guide them when it comes to the distribution of your estate, instead of leaving it all up to them to deal with.

A Last Will and Testament is so important to have in place to ensure that your assets and personal possessions are divided up between the individuals you want them to be. This will make sure it does not cause unnecessary stress and arguments on your family during this tough time.

Having a Will in place for the sake of your children

Again, talking about death, especially with children, is no easy task. And while every family’s situation is unique, death is a common denominator. Children need to understand the purpose of a Will and what the process will be when it comes into effect. What’s more, your children will benefit from you having a Will in the following ways:

  • It relieves stress and anxiety: a Will provides immense peace of mind for your loved ones because they will have a clear guide on how to handle the allocate of finances and assets.
  • Their best interests are protected: whether it is to ensure that they can finance their education or property investment, a Will can assist with these critical aspects of life.
  • Reducing inheritance tax: large amounts of tax on inheritance can be avoided with a proper Will in place. It allows you to create a structure in which your assets do not become part of the general estate when you pass on.

Dying without a Will in place

Should you die without a Will, your estate will be distributed in terms of the law of intestate succession. This means that beneficiaries you may never have wished to inherit might benefit, while those that you genuinely care for and would want to benefit might be left with no legal entitlement to your estate or assets.

Having a valid Will is a surefire way to avoid unintended consequences. There are also many other benefits of having a Will, such as the ability to appoint guardians for any minor children, keeping a helpful record of assets that surviving relatives might not be aware of, limiting taxes payable on deceased estates, important decisions regarding medical care should a person be unable to communicate his or her wishes.

Getting a legal expert to help you draw up a Will

It is advisable to have a person with the necessary legal knowledge and expertise, such as an attorney draw up your Will. Attorneys have expert knowledge that will ensure that your Will is clear, concise and reflects your true intentions. Besides, you don’t want an unnecessary error rendering your Will invalid. Attorneys also understand tax and other financial implications that go hand in hand with dividing your estate.

You do have the option of drawing up a Will yourself but be warned; South African law has strict rules and procedures when it comes to Wills and places a lot of emphasis on authenticity and validity. It’s not like anyone can call or send an email to the testator (person drawing up the Will) after his or her death.

Here are the basics to keep in mind:

  • A Will must be in writing. That means no plain handwritten or typed documents, oral Wills or video recordings.
  • The Will must be signed by the testator on each page, as well as at the end of the document (last page).
  • The testator should sign the Will in the presence of 2 or more witnesses. These witnesses should be at least 14 years old and competent to give evidence in court. It is not required that the witnesses know the content of the Will, just that they are witnessing that it is the testator’s Will. It’s essential to keep in mind is that no witness may inherit in terms of a Will.
  • The witnesses must also, in the presence of the testator and each other, sign the Will at the end of the document and not on each page.
  • Though not a requirement, it may be beneficial to place a date on the Will. In the case that the testator leaves behind more than one Will, this will help determine which one was the last and final.

For direct answers to your specific personal questions, please contact us directly.

Read more about our estate planning and will services.

Author – Jenna Phillips

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