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CAN YOU AFFORD TO DIE WITHOUT LEAVING A VALID WILL?

What is a Will? A Will is a legal document that sets out your wishes regarding the distribution of your estate in the event of your
death.

What is a Living Will? A Living Will is a legal document setting out what is to happen should you be unable to make life and death
decisions for yourself e.g. if you are in a coma.

Both documents are relatively inexpensive to have drafted so why is it that so many people die intestate (ie without a Will) and leave
complete devastation for their family on their passing. Here are some things you should consider:

1. If you are unmarried and living with someone in a permanent relationship, and you die intestate, your partner will not necessarily inherit anything from your estate. If you have no children, your parents will inherit. If you have children, your children will inherit.
Consider the couple who had lived together for 21 years. For all intents and purposes they considered themselves married. Their finances had become “merged” over the years and the “wife” was wholly dependent on the “husband”. All the assets were in the “husbands” name. On his unexpected death, his three estranged children stepped in and claimed his estate, even going so far as to lay fraud charges against the “wife” when she drew funds out of their joint account.

2. If you have a child/ren, someone has to look after them after you have gone. It is fine if your spouse (or their other parent)
survives you, but what if both their parents die in the same catastrophe. Don’t make assumptions that your parents or siblings are able or willing to step in and bring up your children. Consider who to appoint as your child/ren’s Guardian. Speak to that person when you are alive to ensure that they are able and willing to take on the appointment.

3. It is not only the old that die, unfortunately some people die way before their time. Consider the young father who died intestate leaving a wife and two minor children. His wife stood to inherit R125 000.00 or a child’s share of his estate, whichever was the larger. The children’s inheritance would be paid to the Guardian’s Fund. His wife would then be forced to support the children from her share of the estate and claim maintenance on behalf of the children from the Guardian’s Fund, each claim having to be properly motivated and proved.

4. Take some time to choose your Executor. Speak to your spouse, they may not want to accept the appointment. Choosing one of your children over another may create tension between them. Choosing an organisation that has no interest in the needs of your family may result in further challenges for your family. Perhaps a trusted friend or your attorney as impartial but interested third parties may be a better choice.

5. Give some thought to any special bequests. Remember special bequests listed in your Will will be paid first, so ensure that there are sufficient funds left in your estate after bequests are distributed to devolve upon your heirs.

6. If you have a business, set out in detail what your business succession instructions are. This will prevent squabbles amongst your business partners or family members.

7. A Will is a living document and should be updated periodically to keep pace with the changing circumstances of your life. Remember to change your Will after any life-changing events, for example the birth of a child or divorce. Consider the parents who drafted a Will after the birth of their first child, leaving their estate to the survivor of them or in the event of their simultaneous death, to their only child. Years later they have two further children and then do not update their Will. On their simultaneous death their entire estate would be administered in terms of their existing Will.

8. You can create a Trust for your family or dependants in your Will. Consider who to appoint as Trustees, speak to them when you are alive so that the security of your family is left in good hands.

9. Remember any beneficiary form completed and lodged with your insurance company will take priority over any instruction in your Will. Ensure that the two documents are not in conflict with one another.

10. Keep your Will in a safe place, and ensure that more than one member of your family is aware of its location. If you anticipate
problems amongst your heirs, perhaps leave your Will with your Executor.

11. Creating a file which contains all of your important documents is really a gift you give your heirs. You are sure to have information that you keep private whilst you are alive and which your heirs would have no idea about unless you specifically told them.
This file is to contain items like your Will, copy of your identity document or passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce orders if previously divorced, the name of your insurance broker, list of all your policies as well as policy documents, the name of the person who advises you on investment portfolios, special instructions to your Executor, if any, share portfolios, list of all assets, banking accounts, bond and overdraft accounts, credit cards and credit facilities, list of liabilities, loans to family members or other parties which you require to be repaid including proof of the loan and repayment agreement, TV License, cellphone contracts, lists of creditors/ debtors and all such similar documentation.

12. Do not leave it up to your family to squabble over your property after you have passed, all you leave is a legacy that splits your
family apart. Be prepared, don’t procrastinate any longer. An investment of your time now will give you and your family peace of mind in the future.

Bev Loubser Attorneys
011 432 8605/8

Born to Shine Magazine

www.maximonline.co.za