What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. To maximize the likelihood that your wishes are carried out, you want a will that is set forth in writing, and signed by you and your witnesses. If your will does not meet these standards, your instructions may not be carried out and your loved ones may not be looked after.
Why Do I Need A Will?
Creating a will gives you sole discretion over the distribution of your assets. It lets you decide how your belongings, such as cars, immovable property, jewellery or family heirlooms, should be distributed. If you have a business or investments, your will can direct the smooth transition of those assets.
If you have minor children, a will lets you provide for their care. If you have children from a prior marriage, even if they are adults, your will can dictate the assets they receive. Creating a will also minimizes tensions among survivors. Relatives battling over your possessions can weaken what may have otherwise been a strong family.
If you are charitably inclined, a will lets you direct your assets to the charity of your choice. Likewise, if you wish to leave your assets to an institution or an organization, a will can see that your wishes are carried out.
What Happens If I Don’t Have One?
If you do not have a will, you die intestate. In such a case, the state will oversee the distribution of your assets. Contrary to popular opinion, the state does not inherit your assets, but rather distributes them according to a set formula.
The formula often results in half of your estate going to your spouse and the other half going to your children. Such a scenario can result in the sale of the family home or other assets, negatively affecting the surviving spouse. This can create financial and emotional difficulties, particularly if your spouse was counting on the bulk of your assets to maintain his or her standard of living. Further complications can arise if your children are minors, as the court will appoint a representative to look after their interests.
What documentation / information will be required to draw my Will?
When you are ready to prepare a will,
1. compile a list of your assets and debts. Be sure to include the contents of safe deposit boxes, items of sentimental value, family heirlooms and other assets that you wish to transfer to a particular person or entity.
2. Copies of Identity Documents for yourself as well as marital status and marriage certificate;
3. Identity numbers for each heir mentioned in your Will.
Can I Change / Update my Will?
Yes. Changing or updating your Will is essential whenever major changes takes place such as divorce, purchase or sale of a property, minor children reaching the age of 18, etc. If your Will is not updated your assets will be distributed in terms of your existing Will which may not match your changed circumstances. A general suggestion is to have your Will updated every 5 years. Ideally, you want to make any changes when you are of sound mind and in good health. This limits the likelihood that your wishes can be successfully challenged and avoids decisions made in haste or under intense emotional pressure.
What Do I Do with It Once It’s Done?
Creating your will is the first step in a two-step process. The second step is putting your will in the hands of your executor or professional advisor. Remember, your wishes can only be carried out if they are known. Putting your will in capable hands ensures that it will be available when it is needed.
How Much will it cost me?
For the month of September 2016 we are assisting clients to draw their straight forward Wills for a nominal fee of R950-00. This fee includes
First consultation to obtain documentation and discuss client’s wishes and instructions to draw Will, first draft of Will, discussions whether Will meets requirements or changes, draft of final Will, consultation with client to sign Final Will, copies and safekeeping of Final Will.
The Bottom Line
Making a will is a necessary – and, usually, fairly simple process – that can save your family time, money and grief, as well as give you peace of mind.