Did you know that you can get a will drawn up free of charge during Wills Week (12-16 September 2022)?
An initiative of the Law Society of South Africa, National Wills Week focuses attention on the importance of making a Will. Because, alarmingly, an estimated 70% of South Africans die without one. And it leads to all sorts of heartaches and headaches for loved ones left behind.
If you don’t have a valid will, visit the Law Society website now to find your nearest participating attorney, and make an appointment during Wills Week. It’s a wonderful opportunity to put your affairs in order, safeguard your loved ones, and think about how you want to be remembered after your time on earth is over.
What happens if you die without a will?
The old saying, “Leave a will or leave a mess,” sums it up. It’s especially true if you are divorced, remarried with step children, living with a partner to whom you are not married, or responsible for children born out of wedlock. Even if you have no dependents and little of value to leave, making a Will is still important. Because, if you die without one:
- It will take a long time (sometimes years) for your estate to be wound up and for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. First, a search has to be made for the non-existent will. Then the court will appoint an executor to handle your affairs. Legal notices must be published, inviting anyone with a claim on your estate to come forward. All of which takes time.
- Your loved ones may be left without sufficient money. When you die, your bank account will be frozen. So, if you’re responsible for mortgage or car finance repayments, these won’t go through. Will your loved ones be able to pay the bills until such time as the estate is wound up?
- It costs more. Apart from the extra work required to wind up your estate, unpaid bills attract interest. And that could add up over the months, leaving your beneficiaries with considerably less than they expected.
- Minor children (if you have them) will be placed in the care of a court appointed guardian should you and your spouse die together (e.g. in a car accident). Although the appointed guardian is normally a close relative, it might not be the person you would have chosen to bring up your children.
- Only blood relatives can inherit under the Intestate Succession Act. Beloved friends, step children, God children, loyal employees, and charities close to your heart will not get anything, even if you promised them they would. Your wishes for friends and charitable organisations can only be enforced through a valid will.
Don’t even think about doing it yourself
Although legally you can write your own will, there are all sorts of pitfalls awaiting the inexperienced. Beware of ambiguous wording and other mistakes that could lead to serious consequences. Your will could even be declared invalid.
A qualified attorney has the necessary legal knowledge to ensure your will is correctly worded and witnessed. He or she can point out outcomes you may not have considered, set up a testamentary trust for minor children, and suggest ways to save on estate duty. And if you take advantage of Wills Week, you won’t have to pay a cent for this expert advice.
Have you considered leaving a charitable bequest?
Once you have made provision for your own family and friends in your Will, you have a perfect opportunity to also help the larger family of which we are all part – the whole of mankind.
Making a charitable bequest to an organisation whose work you admire is a popular tradition. There’s something very appealing about having the power to leave the world a better place. Including a bequest to Operation Smile South Africa in your Will is often a source of great personal satisfaction. Just think of the number of children … some not even born yet … whose lives will be irrevocably changed for the better thanks to you!
Plus, charitable bequests to Operation Smile South Africa are tax deductible, and will help reduce estate duty. Please discuss the legal aspects during your meeting with the attorney.