AS has become tradition over the past few years, members of the public will be able to have a basic will drafted by an attorney free of charge during National Wills Week from 12 to 16 September.
Attorney firms throughout the country are participating in the National Wills Week Project.
“A valid will allows you to state who should inherit your assets and property, to appoint an executor of your choice for your estate and also a guardian for your minor children. By ensuring that you have a valid will, you can protect the interests of your loved ones and ensure that your executor will act according to your wishes as set out in your will,”say Law Society of South Africa co-chairpersons Jan van Rensburg and Mvuso Notyesi.
Persons who have recently been married, divorced or widowed, or those who have been cohabiting with their partners for some time, should also consider having a will drafted. If you have been cohabiting with your partner, it is advisable to have a will to ensure that there are not competing claims on your estate.
Similarly, unmarried persons, particularly those who may have a number of people that depend on them financially, should ensure they have a will in place, as several people could make a claim on their estates.
During National Wills Week, attorneys participating in the initiative will display posters with their contact details so that members of the public can make appointments with attorneys in their area. In addition, the contact details of all participating attorneys can be accessed on the LSSA website at www.lssa.org.za or by contacting the relevant provincial law society.
What you should take to the attorney for your will to be drafted:
- your identity document; and
- a list of what you own (including specific personal items that you wish to bequeath to specific people).
Before you go to the attorney, think about:
- who must get what;
- who should be the legal guardians of your minor children (those under 18); and
- who should be the executor of your will. This could be your attorney or a close family member or friend. If you decide on a family member or friend, it is advisable also to nominate the attorney as co-executor, as the attorney will deal with any legal issues.
Why should an attorney draft your will?
A practising attorney has the necessary knowledge and expertise to ensure that your will is valid by complying with all the legal requirements in the Wills Act and also making sure that it complies with your wishes. An attorney can also advise you on any problem which may arise with your will and assist your executor. Often, a will is not valid because the person who drafts it does not have the necessary legal knowledge to ensure that all the legal requirements of the Wills Act are met. These include the fact that the will must be in writing, it must be signed by the testator in the presence of at least two competent witnesses and must also be signed by the witnesses.
What could happen to your estate if you die without a valid will?
If you die without leaving a valid will, your assets will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. These provisions are generally fair and ensure that your possessions are transferred to your spouse and children and, where applicable, to siblings, parents, and, if required, to the extended family in terms of degrees of relationships.
The following problems may arise if you die without leaving a will:
- Your assets may not be left to the person of your choice.
- It can take a longer time to have an executor appointed. The executor who is appointed may be somebody you may not have chosen yourself.
- There could be extra and unnecessary costs.
- There could be unhappiness and conflict among members of your family because there are no clear instructions on how to distribute your assets.