Draft a will and still have a voice beyond the grave

COVID-19 has served as a poignant reminder that death is a certain destination for all of us and that it is always better being prepared for the worst – and having a will drawn up is one of the best decision you can make.

While having a will seems like a logical thing to do, many people still attach little value in organising their financial affairs while they are still alive. They wait until it is too late.

According to FNB, over the course of lockdown there has been an increase in the number of people taking interest in drafting or updating their wills.

The lender has seen an 8% increase in customers who are interested in drafting a new will or those who wish to update an existing one. Matlhodi Leteane, head of operations at FNB fiduciary, says a valid will gives executors clear instructions on how one’s estate and assets should be disposed upon death.

Leteane says: “It’s important to have your wills drafted by a professional with experience and expertise in this area. We often find that many wills that are drafted are often invalid due to irregularities or incorrect information presented.”

However, having a will and not updating it when there is a change in personal circumstances, such as acquiring new or additional assets, the birth of a child, marriage or divorce is also a futile exercise. When a person dies without a will, the estate will be distributed intestacy, meaning that the Intestate Succession Act will come into play.

In terms of the act, the division rules of the assets are determined based on who survives you. For instance, if you are survived by a spouse, the spouse will inherit everything.

The law demands that for a will to stand the test of time it must be in writing, a testator must sign the will at the end and two witnesses must attest to the signature of the testator and must be dated.

Just Money commercial manager Sarah Nicholson says if you are young with a small estate and relatively few assets, it is still important to have a will and to review it every five years or when you experience a milestone in your life.

“Having a will in place helps you determine who will receive your possessions when you pass on and how the distribution of your estate will be managed. The last thing you want is a family fallout with toxic repercussions that will ripple down the generations,” says Nicholson.

The following may arise should you die without a will:

• There can be extra costs.

• Your assets may end up in wrong hands and it can take a long time to have an executor appointed.

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