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How to write a your Will in South Africa

Everything you need to know: who, what, when, where, how and why.

It is important for everyone to have a Will – even if you don’t have property, money or assets. It can save your family and friends money, time, arguments and also help them to understand what you want to do with your remains after you have passed away. It’s already a difficult time for them, so make it easy on them.

And don’t leave it until the last minute – it is difficult to think about your own mortality and the possibility of dying. So do it early, and do it now!

Services

Quick and easy online form

You can literally be done in 20 minutes, just:

  1. Insert your name, address and occupation
  2. Nominate someone to carry out your wishes (called your “Executor”)
  3. Specify who you want to inherit your assets (called your “Beneficiaries”)
  4. List any special gifts (e.g. charities, close friends, etc.)
  5. Add any special funeral arrangements

Online instructions, email and telephone support

We step you through the form and explain any legal terms used (like “Executor” and “Beneficiary”). Then we explain how to sign your Will and where to store it.

And you can always call us if you have any questions.

I have a “complex” situation …

Our Will Kit is designed for straightforward situations. For more complex situations – you own property overseas; you are part owner of a business; you are a beneficiary of a family trust; you have a “mixed” family with children from former relationships; you have disabled children – we recommend you consult a specialist Attorney.

Receive Pro Forma Will

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Follow Signature and storage instructions.

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Why do I need a Will?

A Will is the only way to be certain that your assets will be distributed the way you want after you die. This helps avoid potential arguments between your family members over your personal assets. A Will is particularly important because it’s one of the few legal documents where lawyers and courts won’t be able to ask you to explain or clarify your intentions when it comes to be used! It’s a definitive statement of your intentions when it comes to your wishes for both your assets as well as your burial.

If you die without a Will (known formally as “dying intestate”), the court decides how your estate and assets are to be distributed and this is usually done according to a strict legal formula. The court appoints a trustee executor who will distribute your assets according to this formula, even though this may not be how you would have chosen to give away or divide your assets. For example, you may wish to give gifts to particular friends, children, grandchildren or relatives. These wishes are not carried out by the government trustee if you do not have a Will which specifies this.

In addition, if you die intestate, there are additional fees and taxes charged to your estate which you would not necessarily have if you die with a Will in place. This means your heirs wind up receiving less and more of your hard earned money goes unnecessarily to fees and taxes which may otherwise be avoided.

Having a Will is also important as it allows you to appoint an executor that you know and trust to make sure that they can help distribute your assets and arrange your affairs after you die.

When should I write a Will?

It’s usually best to write a Will as early as possible, simply because you never know when the worst might happen. Here are some stages-in-life when you should consider making or amending your Will:

  • Just married or re-married (marriage revokes any previous Will)
  • Moving in together or entering into a defacto (i.e. long term) relationship
  • Getting separated or divorced (divorce does not automatically revoke a Will)
  • Buying a house/apartment/land or other significant asset
  • Buying or starting a business, and
  • Turning 18 years old

Wills are a significant and essential part of your financial planning and should not be something that is left until the last minute nor left unfinished.

Should I use a “free” Will?

Another problem is that many “free” Wills require you to nominate the supplier’s company or affiliate as a trustee or executor to your Will. This means the “free” Will can prove quite costly; it’s just that your heirs pay the price and your hard earned money and estate pays the fees.

What assets do I need to include in my Will?

You should gather together a complete list of all your assets, this includes:

  • Physical assets such as a house, cars or jewellery
  • Financial assets such as shares or bank savings, and
  • Heirlooms or possessions with sentimental value.

You should also make a note of your liabilities such as outstanding mortgages or loans. When you leave a specific asset, you may need to decide if any associated liabilities are to be included as part of the gift or whether it is to be given free of any loan or taxes.

Bear in mind that the usual process for distribution of assets in a Will is that first, specific named gifts go to specific named recipients. The executors then work out the total value of everything else you own, minus any liabilities and taxes. What’s left over is called your “residuary estate”, which is divided up in accordance with your Will.

What is an Executor?

This is the person (or people) you have chosen to be in charge of looking after the distribution of your assets. This person is called an executor and should be someone who is over the age of 18, someone you trust and someone who is able to make decisions on your behalf if necessary. Their responsibilities may include:

What if I die without a Will?

In legal terminology, dying without a valid Will in place is called dying “intestate”. The legal procedures for dealing with your assets become more complicated, time-consuming and costly – and may cause more distress and hardship to your family.

This may not necessarily be how you would want your belongings to be distributed. Your friends and other family members receive nothing and it can greatly increase the emotional stress caused to your loved ones.

© 2020 Louwrens Koen Attorneys, All Rights Reserved