Drawing up a simple will

A Fin24 user wants to know what his options are when drawing up an uncomplicated will. He writes:

I want to know about drawing up a will. Lawyers are usually very unhelpful when it comes to giving you a reasonable quote, and they exploit one's legal ignorance.

The articles printed by most "financial advisers" are bland and never advise the layman about an uncomplicated will and what the options are.

It would be nice if Fin24 printed something from the layman's point of view.

Yolandie Veldsman, an attorney specialising in administering the estates of deceased persons, responds:

I shall explain about wills step by step, but keep in mind that a lot of the information contained in a will is determined by the testator (testatrix if it is a woman), namely the person whose will it is.

A will always starts with information about the testator, like names and identity numbers;

Then you will have a clause revoking (to void or annul by recalling or withdrawing) all the previous wills you have or might have made in the past.

You will have a clause appointing your executor. This is the person responsible for your estate when you pass away. This person will handle the whole process, and the transfers of all the assets.

Your estate consists of all your possessions, especially all the property and debts left by you at death.

Then you will have a clause nominating your beneficiaries. You have free will to decide who they will be.

Spouses

If you are married in community of property, please remember that you can only decide about half of the assets (possessions).

Many people who are married in community of property will draw up a joint will and then nominate each other as beneficiaries.

If both spouses die simultaneously, or the longest surviving spouse dies, then they could leave their estate to their children, for instance.

For example: the spouse who dies first names the surviving spouse as the beneficiary and, should both spouses die or the longest surviving spouse die without any further will having been drawn up, it is stipulated that the estate goes to their children.

You could also have a clause to make sure that assets you leave to your beneficiaries can't be claimed by a partner from any marriage or relationship they are in.

Date and signature

Then a very important thing: the will needs to be dated when signed. It is best to sign in black ink.

The testator and the two witnesses must sign in full at the bottom right hand side of each page. This is safer than simply initialling each page. The testator and the same two witnesses must also sign in full on the last page and provide their names and ID numbers there as well.

These witnesses may not be beneficiaries, or partners of the beneficiaries.

The information above describes a very short and uncomplicated will. It can be more complicated, by complying with a few more clauses and legal sentences.  

You can buy a concept will at Waltons and complete it yourself, but it is still best to see a person with knowledge to confirm that it is correct.

Please remember to appoint the executor. It is very difficult for the family to run around and find a person or company to help when you pass away.

It is very important that you see a person with knowledge about wills and estates to draw up a will for you and to advise you about the estate process regarding your specific assets.

To draw up the will, you could only need one appointment to get all the information and details of the beneficiaries; then a second appointment will be necessary once the will is completed and ready to be signed. It is best to sign two copies.  

You will need an executor to handle the estate. You also need to be informed about the costs involved in the estate process, and for the will.

You could also approach a company which administers trusts to help you with this.

 - Fin24

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