Majority of black people do not have wills, shows Sanlam research

Over 75% of black South Africans do not have a will, research by financial services group Sanlam shows.

The research states that half of those who do not have a will believe they do not have sufficient assets to warrant estate planning, while the other half has simply not managed to get around to creating a will.

Head of wills operations at Sanlam Trust, Moremadi Mabule, said the general rule is that only blood relations of the deceased and their descendants may inherit should someone die without a will. This includes children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, and aunts.

“The surviving spouse and legally adopted children are exceptions to this rule. Nobody else, even if they are financially dependent on the deceased, has a claim on intestacy [when you die without a will] as per the current legislation,” said Mabule.

She said a lack of financial literacy plays a big role in why many South Africans – including black South Africans – do not have a will. Although the financial literacy gap affects all racial groups, it is only part of the problem.

“While financial literacy does still need attention, the main issue around the lack of estate planning seems to be procrastination. People know that it is important, but do not see it as something to do immediately.

“When you combine that with the prevailing idea that you need a certain amount of assets to justify having a will, this is a recipe for disaster.”

She said everyone has some form of an asset and added that having a will in place goes a long way toward helping those who depend on you to live confidently.

Speaking on how to encourage people to draft wills, Mabule said people should have more discussions around the importance of having a will. “It is not about the size of your estate  but rather the articulation of freedom of testation.”

Mabule shared further that if you do not write down your wishes, assumptions of who will take over your estate will not hold water.

She quoted the famous cartoon, Zapiro and said: “Everyone has a will. Draft one, meaning you make the choices or the state will make choices for you,” which she explained to be interstate succession.

Mabule said the conclusion to say 75% of black people do not have wills came from surveys after the master’s office in 2019/2022 discovered that only 20% of the people had the wills and the remaining 80% did not.

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