Drafting a last will and testament is a crucial step in ensuring that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. Having a valid will in place can provide peace of mind and clarity for your loved ones during a challenging time.
Why drafting a will is important
Ensuring your wishes are honoured
In a will you can stipulate how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. Without a will, the distribution of your estate will be governed by intestate succession laws, which may not align with your wishes.
Providing for your loved ones
A will enables you to provide for your loved ones, including your spouse, children, and other dependents. You can stipulate who should inherit specific assets or receive financial support, ensuring that they are taken care of after you’re gone.
Minimising family disputes
Clear instructions in a will can help prevent disputes among family members over the distribution of assets. By outlining your wishes in writing, you can minimise the potential for conflict and ensure that your estate is settled smoothly.
If you have minor children, a will allows you to designate guardians who will be responsible for their care in the event of your death. This ensures that your children are placed in the care of individuals you trust and who share your values.
Key elements of a valid will
Identification of the testator
The will should begin with your full legal name and address, clearly identifying you as the testator (the person making the will). A testator must be older than 16 years.
Appointment of an executor
You should appoint an executor to administer your estate and carry out the instructions in your will. Choose someone who is trustworthy and capable of handling the responsibilities associated with executorship.
Distribution of assets
Clearly outline how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. Specify who should inherit specific items or properties and include alternate beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiaries predecease you.
Include a residuary clause to address any assets or property that are not specifically mentioned in the will. This way all your assets are accounted for and distributed according to your wishes.
Funeral and burial wishes
You may include instructions regarding your funeral arrangements and any specific wishes you have regarding your burial or cremation.
Include a clause explicitly revoking any previous wills or testamentary documents that you have made, ensuring that your current will takes precedence.
Witnesses and signatures
In South Africa, a will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two competent witnesses who are older than 14 years. They must sign in the presence of the testator and each other. People named as heirs, guardians, executors, or trustees (and their spouses) may not sign as witnesses to the will. The will must also indicate the date and place where it was signed.
A will is not valid if these legal requirements aren’t met.
Safekeeping of your will
Your last will and testament must be stored in a safe place. Inform someone in your family or circle of friends where you keep your will. Professionals who draft wills, like lawyers or banks, can keep your will at their premises.
Updating your will
Don’t forget to update your will when there is a change in your personal circumstances, or you acquire or sell assets.
How we can help you
Drafting a will is an essential aspect of estate planning that allows you to protect your assets, provide for your loved ones, and ensure that your wishes are honoured after your death.
Contact us if you’re unsure how to draft a will or have complex estate planning needs. Our legal professionals will ensure that it’s drafted to reflect your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets. Furthermore, we’ll make sure that it’s drafted in a tax-efficient manner to provide financial benefits and maximise permitted deductions.