People's Post

Here’s why Wills Month should be a priority

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Use Wills Week to get a free will and testament drawn up between Monday 13 and Friday 17 September. PHOTO: Melinda Gimpel | Unsplash
Use Wills Week to get a free will and testament drawn up between Monday 13 and Friday 17 September. PHOTO: Melinda Gimpel | Unsplash

If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us how fragile and unpredictable life can be.

It also underlined the importance of having a last will and testament in place. For those who don’t, now is the time to take advantage of the free services offered during Wills Week.

Running from Monday 13 to Friday 17 September, it is aimed at educating the public on the risks of dying without a will.

One person who experienced first-hand what a struggle it can be when a parent dies without a valid will is George Atkins. When his father died four years ago, they discovered that he had written down his last wishes on some old napkin. What followed was an experience most common when dealing with death without a will – it took years to wind up the estate.

“You could barely read what stood on the napkin. The last legible will we have was the old one that still had other people on it who aren’t alive or relevant,” he says.

In the years after his father’s death, Atkins says he managed the house left to him, but not without challenges from his half-brother, with whom he no longer communicates as a result.

He says he hired a lawyer to help speed up the process, but little could be done without the final will and testament.

Another example of what can happen was witnessed by Gerald Dean when her employer, Roland Adams, died. Adams owned a small driving school.

“I’ve worked with Roland for more than 20 years and even when things got hard at the start of the pandemic, he was always there for me and made sure I still had work even when salaries had to be cut. Then Roland died of Covid-19 complications last year and suddenly his ex-wife from more than 10 years ago popped up, claiming she owns the business. But Roland had a current wife when he died,” explains Dean.

Aside from causing a rift in the family, spending a large amount of money on lawyers’ fees and just as much time winding up the estate, some of the other consequences of suffering a death in the family without a last will and testament in place could include leaving minors in the foster care system and the estate not being divided as intended.

During Wills Week, residents can get a free will drawn up by participating companies.

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

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