Never too old to learn

2015-06-24 06:00
METHOD GQETYWA of the Department of Justice gave most of the elders a sigh of relief by sharing information on wills and testaments. With him is Pheliswa Lekanyane, the provincial director of Sassa.

METHOD GQETYWA of the Department of Justice gave most of the elders a sigh of relief by sharing information on wills and testaments. With him is Pheliswa Lekanyane, the provincial director of Sassa.

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JAMES LECHWITI (87) from Galeshewe has had many sleepless nights concerning his inability to draft a testament like he wanted for his assets.

Being a pensioner, he thought he could not afford to pay a lawyer to draft a will for him.

According to Lechwiti, he does not have any surviving children after his two children, including his adopted son and later his wife, passed away. His wish was for his younger sister and married niece to share his assets equally after he passed away.

Staying alone in his five-roomed house, Lechwiti has the house, a Cressida car, his furniture and a few insurance policies that he has to share equally amongst his remaining family.

Lechwiti was amongst the more than 50 elderly who gathered at the recreation hall in Galeshewe to participate in the World Elder Abuse Awareness Campaign, where they were taught the significance of a last will and testament.

Method Gqetywa of the Department of Justice informed the elderly, who showed a lot of interest in his speech, about the processes that needed to be followed to have a finally-approved testament.

It was a huge relief for Lechwiti to learn that the Master of the High Court at the Department of Justice can draft a will free of charge, unlike private companies and some banks, who would mostly require to charge a client 35% of his assets to become executors.

The information was ear candy to most of the elderly, who were seen nodding while Gqetywa spoke.

Some were heard shouting “ga re utlwe sentle” (we can’t hear you properly), resulting in an interpretation being made afterwards.

According to Gqetywa, the Department of Justice is the one that approves each and every will after it is drafted to see whether it complies with the requirements of the law.

“We are the ones who check to ensure that all wills are legally binding and ensure that all the instructions are followed and executed,” he said.

He sternly warned the elderly that it was against the law to allow someone else to sign your will, and that there always had to be two witnesses, including a Commissioner of Oath, when a will is signed.

“None of the parties present are allowed to know the contents of the will.

“If you cannot sign for yourself, then a thumbprint is the only other way to replace a signature.

“You must leave no space between the end of the document and the signature. That is to avoid anyone adding additional information without your knowledge,” warned Gqetywa.

According to Gqetywa, the Department of Justice has the authority to disapprove the will if it does not meet the law.

He, however, clarified that the family of the deceased could write a letter to the Department of Justice to request that the will be accepted when it was disapproved.

He further added that a marriage sealed in community of property required a joint will by the couple while a couple who got married outside community of property could draft separate wills.

Lechwiti was in high spirits after the presentation and promised to head straight to the Department of Justice.

“That man said if I wanted any children to share my assets, I had to mention them by name as to who gets what. So this is the end of my problems because, by mentioning my sister and niece by name, they will not fight over my assets when I am gone.”

The information was an initiative by Age-in-Action, who joined the South African community in recognising this day through engagements with other stakeholders like Sassa, the police and the Department of Social Development in order for them to acknowledge the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

Activities on the day also included launching a national toll-free line for reporting cases of elder abuse which is 080-033-3231

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