Without a valid will, your assets are distributed according to the law of intestate succession, which might leave your loved ones without access to the funds for months or even years. Here’s what you need to know to draft a legal, valid will, either by yourself or with the help of an expert.
Here’s how you can draw up your will
You can download a will template or write out instructions. (Template included for download)
Be as specific as possible to make sure your wishes are followed.
You can make it easy to understand by saying you leave all your assets and personal possessions (money etc) to your beneficiary or beneficiaries and name your beneficiary in full and give their ID number, but it is advisable to be specific and include:
- All the details of your assets, such as this property at this address or this investment or savings account with this account number. Use the correct names and descriptions.
- Details of outstanding debt or loans on your assets, or others such as credit cards, home loans, personal loans, store accounts. You can update this once a year.
- Instructions on how your outstanding debts can be paid.
- Exactly how you split your assets among your beneficiaries if there is more than one, such as 50% each or in equal portions.
- Your will must be signed and dated and witnessed by two individuals. The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of your will.
- Name of the executor – the person responsible for making sure your will is followed
This makes it easy for the executor to know what your assets are and what you intended to be done with them, and to follow your wishes.
Finally, you need to check your will once a year and update it with any changes.
Naming an executor
You need to name an executor in your will. An executor will make sure your will is followed and your beneficiaries inherit as you have specified. Your executor can be a financial adviser, accountant, lawyer, bank or a trusted friend, and they should not be a beneficiary of your will. If they are a beneficiary and stand to inherit, you need to name another executor to work with them who is not a beneficiary. Your executor is paid a fee which you can specify in your will. The fee may not be more than 3.5% of your total assets.
If your estate (the value of your assets less any outstanding debts) is less than R250 000 you don’t need to appoint an executor to distribute your assets. In this case, the Master of the High Court will appoint a representative, for example a family member, to distribute your assets.
Can you draft your will yourself or do you need an expert?
It is possible to draw up a will yourself without expert help, but it is only advisable if your financial affairs are straightforward.
If you have an extensive property or investment portfolio or have children under the age of you should get a professional who is experienced in drafting complex wills to draw up your will.
Children under the age of 18 cannot legally inherit. To make sure your children have access to their inheritance you can set up a trust for your minor children in your will. Trustees, who you should name in your will, administer the trust and use the funds in the trust to care for your children. If you have no will, or don’t set up a trust in your will for your children, your assets will be sold and the proceeds invested in the Guardians Fund, which means your children will have limited access to the funds until they reach 18 years.
If you have a special needs child or care for an adult who cannot care for themselves, you can set up a special trust to make sure they have financial support throughout their life.
Before you meet with a professional, have a list of assets, your beneficiaries and know how you want to split your assets among your beneficiaries.
Top tip: Keep your will safe and let a trusted family member know where it is kept.
Leaving clear instructions on how you would like your assets distributed after your death means your loved ones don’t have to spend extra time sorting out your affairs. It’s one of the gifts we can give after death and shows that we cared for our family and friends not only when we are alive, but also when we are no longer around. Get a will or update your will today!
For assistance on drafting out your will. Contact me.
Let me know in the comments below. Do you have a will? If not, why?