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Leon Bart Financial Services

Will & Testament

The importance of having a well-structured Will & Testament?

The importance of having a well-structured Will & Testament going on holiday, and why it needs to be updated every year or at least with every life event that occurs.

It takes just a few minutes to make sure your Will still contains the right information and can make a world of a difference to your loved ones.

People often neglect to give proper attention to their will because it forces them to face their own mortality. Yet this is one of the most important documents necessary for estate planning.

Having a well-structured will means you are taking care of your responsibilities and ensuring that your assets are distributed in terms of your wishes when you are no longer there.

Be practical

A Will must be Practical? People often place restrictions (conditions – ‘’Rule from the Grave”) on what a beneficiary is allowed to do with an asset, but in many instances, it can be quite difficult to carry out these instructions.

“One must ensure that the instructions are legally binding on the individual,” – You have to consider whether the beneficiaries can actually deal with the assets.

People should also remember that the contract between the testator and a life insurance company takes precedence over a will.

If a testator names their child as the beneficiary of a policy and leaves their estate to their spouse, the spouse may be in trouble if the estate does not have sufficient liquidity to cover the debt.

Getting it right

The importance of obtaining the services of a professional person who specialises in the drafting of wills is pertinent and this shall avoid unnecessary complications with the administration of the estate.

The wording is critical and getting it wrong can lead to hardship and even financial distress for the people left behind. Once you are dead, there is no opportunity to correct or amend something that is not clear.

“All too often people appoint a family friend or a family member as the executor of the estate. In many instances, the master of the high court will insist on a professional person assisting the individual in winding up the estate.”

“It is important that the person winding up the estate has kept abreast of changes in the relevant legislation and understands the tax implications, etc.”

He points out that people with assets outside of South Africa might have a will in the country where those assets are located. “It just makes it easier for someone on that side – a person well-versed in estate matters in that jurisdiction – to quickly attend to the administration of the estate.”- However the latter has serious financial implications especially dealing with a different jurisdiction and this can delay in winding up one’s estate in their country of residence, which could take years? – Therefore a company like Capital Legacy Fiduciary services has the expertise and know-how to assist in this instance.

Keeping it safe

Many people choose to nominate the institution that drafted the will as executor of the estate and to keep the original document. If this is done, it is important that they inform their family where the document is.

If a person dies without a Will, the estate will be administered in terms of the Intestate Succession Act – and the assets will be distributed in a manner that was not always aligned to the deceased wishes.

A valid Will has to be signed by the testator as well as two witnesses, and they must sign in each other’s presence. Witnesses must be at least 14 years old and may not be a beneficiary of the Will.

“The most common error is having the witnesses sign without being in each other’s presence,” “The act is quite specific that the witnesses must all be present at the same time when signing the Will.”

Another error that can render a Will invalid is when amendments to the Will are not properly initialed by both the testator and the witnesses.

Review often

In South Africa, there is freedom of testation and people are allowed to change their wills as often as they please. It is good practice to review a will at least once a year, but there are also some ‘life events’ that make a review necessary, especially going on holiday over the festive period.

These include asset accumulation (a new property, valuable paintings or jewelry), getting married, having children or getting divorced.

If a testator dies within three months of the date of divorce it will be assumed that the testator intended to change the will and any bequest to testator’s former spouse would be deemed to have lapsed. However, after three months of the date of divorce, any bequest to the testator’s former spouse would take effect if the testator did not change the will to reflect his current wishes,

“It only takes a few minutes to run through your will to make sure it still contains the right information but it can make a lifetime of difference to your loved ones.”

Please engage with me on this opportunity to assist you in ensuring that your Last Will is valid and current aligned to your wishes.

Will & Testament