Estate planning - Wills

2016-09-08 06:00

A LAST Will and Testament is the legal document by which you identify those individuals (or charities) that are to receive your property and possessions on your death. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as the heirs or beneficiaries under your Last Will and Testament.

Here are some guidelines regarding Wills:

1. Review/update your Will:

Having a Will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. Why is it devastating not to have a Will if you have minor children? Once you have a Will, it is important to review it regularly, and also to ensure that your family know where to find your Will when you aren’t around.

2. Appointing guardians for minor children:

This issue is often overlooked by parents, especially as a surviving parent remains guardian in the event of the death of the other parent. However, couples should always stipulate a guardian for their children to cover the eventuality of their simultaneous death. Your nominated guardian should be stipulated in your Will.

3. Review beneficiaries:

As your family situation changes over the course of a lifetime, you may need to change the names of beneficiaries not only in your Will, but also in life insurance policies and other documents that list beneficiaries and group life funds.

4. Appointing trustees for minor children:

Trustees should not be confused with guardians. Trustees are appointed in a Will to administer monies inherited by young children, or heirs who are not capable of doing so. Guardians look after and care for minor children. The appointment of trustees is crucial for inheritances by minor children (i.e. under 18 years) as in the absence of provisions in a Will creating a Trust, a minor child’s cash inheritance must be paid over to the Master of the High Court’s Guardians Fund for safekeeping. This may not be the most practical way.

5. Donations:

In terms of current legislation, a person is allowed to donate up to R100 000 each tax year, free of donations tax, to children, trusts or other persons. There is no limit on the amount that spouses may donate to one another tax free. By making donations, large estates can be reduced to avoid significant estate taxes.

Organ Donation: You may want to donate your organs to save someone’s life. You can contact Organ Donation foundation and register as a donor.

6. Liquidity:

One of the most common problems in winding up an estate is the situation where there is not sufficient cash to settle the estate’s liabilities, such as mortgage bonds, vehicle finance, taxes and winding-up costs such as executor’s fees and conveyancing costs. In such a situation the outcome can be a forced sale of assets (such as the family home). Life insurance is an easy and affordable way to provide estate liquidity.

7. Estate taxes:

There are various ways to limit the taxes payable on your estate (such as estate duty and capital gains tax), depending on the size of your estate and your family situation. It is worth-while to discuss the options with your financial advisor.

8. Offshore assets:

If you should have offshore assets when you die, you’ll also have a foreign estate that will have to be administered. Each country has its own legislation dealing with inheritance and the signing of Wills. Your South African Will won’t necessarily meet with the legal requirements of the country where your assets are situated. A solution is to execute a separate Will in the foreign jurisdiction dealing only with those assets. It might be advisable to have a separate Will for your offshore property.

9. Record-keeping:

It is a traumatic time for the surviving family when someone passes away. This trauma can be exacerbated when your loved ones cannot find important documents, keys to safety deposit boxes, financial statements and other necessary information.

It is essential to create a list of where all-important information can be located and give the list to someone you trust.

Please contact your attorney for further information. You could also contact me on 083 399 3905, my office on 032-944 3051 or e-mail me on for an appointment for further advice.


The information is only intended to be of a general nature and should not be relied upon by any part without obtaining full details from a licenced financial service provider.

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