Drafting a last will and testament should be a priority.
A couple of days into 2018 and you’ve probably made your new year’s resolutions. You have set your goals and reevaluated what you want to change in your life. Whether you will accomplish it or not, it is all up to you. But thinking of your new year’s goals,have you prioritised planning for the day when you will die by drafting your last will and testament.
Is this a priority for 2018?
There is never a convenient time to think of what will happen the day when you leave this earth. It is a grim subject and drafting this document is not a very pleasant exercise.
However, death is inevitable and it will skip no one. It does not classify you by status, your health or wealth. The scariest part of it is – we never know when it will happen.
Therefore it is important that we get our documentation in order. It is a common misconception that drafting a will is for the rich, those who own property, are married and have children.
This is not true. If you are older than 16 years, have a bank account, own a savings policy or just a car – you need to draft a will.
When it became a priority for us to draft a last will and testament
It was January 2008, when I watched the news and learnt that a family of four was in a tragic motor vehicle accident, leaving a 5 year old boy as the sole survivor. Although those who died were unknown to me; I could not stop thinking about that little boy.
As an orphan, what will happen to him? Did his parents make provision for who will take care of him before they passed? These were thoughts that ran through my mind.
My husband and I never gave planning for the day we die much thought. Until that tragic day. Mortality is a subject that we often tried to avoid.
Our eldest daughter was only 2 at the time. A minor child and we had no will to protect her. This made me feel uneasy. The scenario of that fatal accident could pretty much have been my family. Leaving my daughter orphaned.
Discussing it with my husband, he agreed that it was a matter of urgency that we draft our will. This was something that we could no longer procrastinate on. No longer was this a consideration but it became a priority. It was imperative not because we had assets but we had the most valued gift, our daughter.
We made an appointment with our financial advisor and drafted our will. Beneficiaries, distribution of assets and most important naming our guardians (we chose two). When our second daughter was born, we reviewed our will and made changes to it.
This gave us peace of mind that should anything happen, we legally documented our wishes.
The importance of drafting a last will and testament
Whether you a parent or not, it is important to draft a will especially if you have assets no matter how little, investments and policies. If you don’t have a will in place you will die intestate. This means the court will decide who will be the beneficiaries of your assets in accordance to the Interstate Succession Act. The court might not consider the needs of your family. Freezing all assets and money in your estate. This is until the court’s final decision on who will benefit. Leaving your family in financial difficulty.
Not naming a guardian in your will, allows the court to make a decision who to appoint as your minor child or children’s guardian. This might not be the person who you wished to raise your child or children when you die. Appointing a guardian(s) who you know will take on the responsibility to care for you child or children and their finances, is important.
Things to include and consider when drafting a last will and testament
- Before drafting your last will and testament, it is important to list all your assets, investments, policies and liquidity.
- You can draft your own will, however it is important to seek advice from your lawyer or a financial advisor who has knowledge of the legalities. These legalities include estate duty fees and Capital Gain Tax.
- Include the full names and identity number of your spouse.
- Include the type of marriage.
- Have certified copies of the Ante-nuptial contracts.
- If you are divorce have a copy of the Decree of Divorce and settlement agreement.
- Include the full names and identity numbers of all children including adopted, stepchildren and grandchildren.
- Name your beneficiaries.
- Decide who will receive what. When you leave money, it is best to list percentages and not actual amounts.
- Appointing an executor (this can be a person who you trust and that can take on the responsible. You can also appoint a trust company to be the executor of your estate). Just bear in mind that the person that you appoint as executor must be able to deal with the administration of the estate. This include dealing with the Masters Office, SARS, Banks, Insurance companies and creditors.
- Appoint a guardian who you trust to oversee finances and who can take on the responsibility to care of your minor child or children. You can also appoint two guardians, one to raise your child or children and the other to oversee the finances that will provide for them. If you appoint two guardians make sure they will be able to work together for the sake of the child or children.
- Include the name and contact details of the guardian(s).
- Appoint a Trust if you have any consent conditions set out in your will indicating when inheritance will become available.
- Your last will and testament should be straightforward, clear and concise and the wording correct to meet certain legal requirements. This is to avoid any misunderstandings and ambiguity.
- The validity of your last will and testament depends on whether it is signed and dated by yourself and two witnesses. Each page should be initialed. The witnesses can be 14 years or older and should not be beneficiaries listed in your will.
- It is best to keep a copy of the signed last will and testament which is clearly marked as “copy” and file it in a safe place. The original should be kept with the lawyer, trust company or bank. Inform your executor where your original last will and testament is kept.
Read more on the legal requirements and what to include in your last will and testament.
Make this a priority for 2018 and start drafting your last will and testament today.