To have a will? Or to not have a will? That is the question. No, not really, whether you are twenty-one or ninety-one, in your first job or final stages of retirement, married or unmarried, have children or don’t have children, if you have no dependants or many dependants, the moment you own assets you need a will.
Assets can be acquired in various forms from the small amount of spending money in your bank account, to the deposit saved up for a home, or the home and its contents, the shiny new car or trustworthy car that never lets you down to the sentimental (and often very valuable) items passed on from generation to generation, if any of these are applicable to you, you need a will.
Having an up to date and legally sound will can be one of the most important legacies that you leave behind for yourself and your family. Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult and having a valid will in place will protect your spouse, children and your assets and make sure that a very difficult time is made easier.
The benefits of an up to date will are:
A will allows you to nominate the person you wish to raise your minor children. If you die without a will or if you fail to make provision in your will for a guardian, the High Court will make this extremely important decision on your behalf.
A valid will is a legally binding document that lets you determine how you want your estate to be administered at your death. If you die without a will your estate will be administered according to the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 (“the Act”). This implies that distribution of your wealth will be according to the Act and can have a devastating financial effect on your spouse and children. Furthermore, the inheritance of a minor will be paid to the Guardians Fund that will administer it until the minor reaches majority.
Having a will in place enables you to appoint the person you want to be the executor of your estate – someone who assumes responsibility for the distribution of your wealth after your death, ensuring that it all goes according to your wishes and who will execute your wishes in a timeous and cost effective manner.
Personal circumstances change more frequently than we tend to realise – births, deaths, adoptions, divorces, property purchases or disposals, marriages and so forth – and if you haven’t revised your will regularly, the wishes expressed therein could result in your assets being distributed inappropriately.
A will doesn’t only make provision for the people you loved in life; it also allows you to give back and to leave behind a legacy that will make a real difference to the lives of many. Whether it’s an environmental, animal, or human cause, allocating a portion of your wealth to charity is a noble gesture that a will can facilitate.
Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a will. Sometimes the realization that wills are necessarily comes too late – such as when an unexpected death or disability occurs. To avoid the added stress on families it may be wise to make sure your will is up to date.