Good time to use your ‘free will’

The importance of leaving a last will and testament cannot be underestimated.
The importance of leaving a last will and testament cannot be underestimated.

No one likes to think about a time when they will no longer be around, but if providing for family members who remain behind is a priority, the importance of leaving a final will and testament cannot be underestimated.

National Wills Week, usually observed in September, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has officially announced that National Wills Week will be commemorated from Monday 26 to Friday 30 October this year.

According to Alex Simeonides, chief executive officer and co-founder of estate planning agency Capital Legacy, more than 75% of South Africans pass away without a valid will in place – the consequences of which can have severe impacts on loved ones.

One of the implications of not having a will is that the estate of the deceased will be distributed according to South African law – under the Intestate Succession Act – meaning valuable items may be distributed in a way that does not benefit the people you would have wanted pass things onto.

Without a will in place, it will take time – even years – and effort to wind up the estate, and if the deceased is the breadwinner it could leave the remaining family with piling debts.

Distribution of valuables and assets without a clear will often lead to feuding in the family.

A current partner may be left with nothing should an outdated will still indicate a previous spouse as the main beneficiary.

The children’s inheritance could pass to the Government Guardian’s Fund or appointed guardian rather than to a trust that will ensure the wishes of the deceased are carried out for them.

Despite all this, when asked if a will was a priority at this point in their lives, several twenty-somethings said they had nothing valuable to pass on and would, therefore, not be writing one up any time soon.

Cape Town resident Jessica Ingrid Smith says: “A will is something you do when you are older; when you’re established and have something to pass on. I’m working for my car and my own entertainment currently, but other than that, I don’t have anything to pass on. And it’s a given that my parents would get my car if I die tomorrow, right?”

According to the LSSA, this is correct. “Where there are no descendants, the parents will inherit, and in their absence, the brothers and sisters will inherit,” reads a document titled Deceased Estates.

But this is likely to be a lengthy process.

Patricia Abrahams says writing up a will hasn’t even crossed her mind. “I’m still growing and I hope my career will grow too, but it’s still a long time before I need to think of that. For my child, my grandmother will look after him or my mother,” she says.

During Wills Week, participating firms will draw up basic wills for free.

  • Visit lssa.org.za for a list of participating firms.

  • For more information, visit: www.capitallegacy.co.za.

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