By Vida Li Sik
Many relationships and families are shattered when a loved one dies without a valid will. During National Wills Week until Friday and participating attorneys can help you draw one up free of charge.
Why should you have a will?
It is a legal document that allows you to decide how your belongings, such as a house, cars, policy payouts and other valuables are shared among the most important people in your life. It also protects your children when you are gone by making sure they are taken care of.
What happens if I die without a will?
Your money and belongings may end up going to people you’ve never even met, as your estate will be distributed according to the laws of succession, and the whole process takes far longer.
Can I do it myself?
Yes. While a will does not have to be drafted by an attorney (if you can’t afford one) or a financial institution, it is best. If you earn less than R10 000 you qualify for assistance at a legal clinic at a cheaper rate. There are shops (e.g. CNA and PNA) that sell standard wills or you can download one from the Internet.
What you need to do:
&Nominate an executor. This is the person you trust to make sure your assets are distributed as you set out in your will. This could be your spouse, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or close friend. If you use a financial institution, like a bank, to draw up the will, be aware that they would nominate themselves as the executor and will be entitled to a fee of 3.5% of the gross value of the estate. A family member will not be entitled to payment for this role.
&Be specific with the details in your will. Include your immovable (a house or land) and movable (cars, furniture, clothes or jewellery). Is there a particular person you want to give your house or car to or someone you want to exclude? Then, say so.
&Have documents proving ownership. Make sure you have documents proving you are the owner of assets like houses (e.g. a title deed) and cars (registration papers).
Have it signed: You can complete and sign the will, together with two witnesses (who must be over the age of 14). It also can’t be someone who will inherit from the estate.
&Check and recheck. Sign every page of your will in front of a commissioner of oaths, so the validity cannot be questioned in court. Update your will as your circumstances change or if one of the people you’ve included pass away before you.
WHERE TO GET HELP
Visit the Law Society of South Africa to find a participating attorney, http://www.lssa.org.za/our-initiatives/advocacy/national-wills-week