By Emsie Martin
The last thing one wants to think about is one’s will, but with everybody taking to the busy roads this time of the year on their way to their holiday destinations, it is perhaps a good time to first look at your will. But this is not the only reason ─ if you were recently divorced, have lost your life partner or have bought property, it also important to look at this.
Your will is probably one of the most important documents that you will ever sign. It contains important information about all the assets you have built up over the years, as well as your final wishes. It also reassures those left behind. It is very important to have a will, but for the will to be valid, it also more important that it meet the requirements.
Many people believe that a will is meant for the rich only, but even if you are of modest means, it is still important to draw up a will.
Follow the steps below to make sure that your will is valid.
Step 1: Have your will drawn up
It is not advisable to draw up your own will, except if you are an expert. Rather talk to an adviser or accredited broker about your wishes and also the heirs and beneficiaries you have in mind.
Hints for drawing up a will
• Plan your will in such a way that it is as uncomplicated as possible.
• Make sure your will is practical. Do not regard your will as a document that will only take effect when you have reached an advanced age. You might not be so lucky.
• Test the contents of your will against the cash available in your estate.
• Be practical when you decide how your assets are to be divided. Perhaps it is not advisable to divide your assets equally between your spouse and your children.
• Avoid rigid instructions in your will.
• Nominate a guardian if there are minor children.
• Make provision for maintenance in terms of a divorce order. A testamentary trust is recommended for this.
• It is absolutely essential that there should be sufficient cash in your estate when you die. A shortage of cash could mean that assets will have to be sold of necessity.
• It is advisable not to prescribe funeral arrangements in your will. The will is often read only after the funeral. It is better to discuss these wishes with your next of kin.
Step 2: Choose an executor
Designating an executor is a big responsibility. You can nominate your spouse, but in most cases this is not a good idea. He or she may be emotionally devastated and not be ready to make important financial decisions.
If, in these circumstances, your spouse does not know what to do, he or she will not look for the best advice or service. Your spouse could possibly also be exposed to a person focused only on self-interest. Normally the Master of the Supreme Court, who also appointed the executor, will insist that a lawyer or trust company be appointed.
Step 3: Sign and have your will signed by witnesses
If you are satisfied with the wording of your will, sign the original version and have it signed by two witnesses older than 14 years. Remember, you must sign the will in the presence of both witnesses and the witnesses must initial each page and sign their full signature on the last page.
The following people may not sign as witnesses:
• Any person who is a beneficiary of your deceased estate and/or his or her spouse
• The executors, trustees and guardians and/or their spouses
Step 4: Send the will for safekeeping
If, for example, you have nominated Sanlam Trust as the executor or co-executor of your will, your original, signed will is kept in a safe for wills until it is time to finalise your will. Most banks will hold it in safekeeping against payment of a monthly fee.
Step 3: Pay your safekeeping fee
Your will can be held in safekeeping for a nominal annual fee and there are also other benefits, such as a discount on your executor’s fee for estates exceeding R950 000 when Sanlam Trust finalises your will. If you are older than 65 you do not have to pay the safekeeping fee.
Step 3: Review you will
Review your will at least every two years, and especially if your personal circumstances have changed ─ for example, if you marry or divorce, upon the death of a spouse or heir, the birth of a child, the acquisition of property or a business, or if you inherit.