Covid-19 has caused many people to confront death in a way that’s jolted them to action. The pandemic has focused most people’s attention on the possibility of passing away and getting their proverbial “house in order”.
In the past year, ASL has seen a significant rise, of about 27%, in customers reaching out to obtain and amend their Will. Although this provides testators with peace of mind that their Last Will and Testaments are in order, it is disconcerting that a pandemic needs to hit before attention is drawn to such vital aspects in planning for the inevitable. In most of our cases, ASL had to make significant changes to execute the testators’ wishes.
Here are our top three critical factors to keep in mind when preparing your Will:
Due to technological developments, ASL has been able to advise, prepare, and produce wills during the pandemic and continue doing so as the alert level restrictions ease. Reaching an older age is not guaranteed, and therefore it is not wise to assume you will only need a Last Will and Testament when you are much older. If you are one of the many that do not have an updated Last Will and Testament, or any Will at all, it is vital that you prioritise the execution thereof. Don’t leave your loved ones with confusion, frustration or worse, conflict due to a lack of proper planning.
It is also essential to understand that the consequence of not having a Last Will and Testament will result in the estate being dealt with according to the Intestate Succession Act. The Act comes into play when an individual does not leave instructions about who will inherit from the estate, which might not unfold as the individual would have liked. The state will be in control and nominate an executor, leading to substantial delays in winding up the estate. There are also additional fees and costs above the executor’s fee of 3.5% of the estate value (plus 15% VAT if applicable), making this a costly route.
It happens too often that Wills are updated and in place, but invalid due to the incorrect signature by witnesses. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the Will are signed by witnesses that are not mentioned in the Will as beneficiaries. Also, remember that the testator and the witnesses must sign the Will in the presence of each other. All of the parties (testator and witnesses) must sign each separate page of the Will to be valid.
Covid-19 brings its fair share of challenges to the table when it comes to the signing of Wills. Having witnesses present can result in an immediate practical problem and remains a challenge for high-risk individuals and the elderly. They especially cannot take the chance to postpone the actual signature and witnessing of the Will, even when practising proper social distancing or at times with higher alert levels and restrictions. Luckily, due to the eased lockdown restrictions we currently experience, it is easier to get appropriate witnesses to sign your Will.
It is vital that you reach out to trusted advisors, such as ASL Trust and not simply download a copy template from the internet that may not include and comply with South African Law. Having an advisor will enable you to be guided on proper estate planning, resulting in substantial savings from estate duties and Capital Gains taxes. You also have the power and ability to negotiate more competitive executors’ fees, which will not be the case when the estate is dealt with intestate. An Advisor will also give you peace of mind that your wishes are executed and that your loved one’s fate is not the last nail in the coffin.
A proper Last Will and Testament will be worth its weight in gold and circumvent unnecessary misunderstandings when you are no longer there to resolve them!