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Make a will an integral part of your financial planning

Dying intestate means anyone can lay claim to your estate

Financial expert advises consumers to make their will part of their financial plan
Financial expert advises consumers to make their will part of their financial plan
Image: 123RF/zimmytws

As National Wills Week starts today, financial advisors recommend people to make wills an integral part of their financial planning.

By making your will the centrepiece of your financial plan, your financial advisor can ensure that you have the correct financial planning products available in the event of your death, to make your last wishes a reality,” says Faeeza Khan, Liberty’s senior specialist for legal marketing. 

A will is a written legal document that states how your estate should be divided between your heirs when you pass away.

It also states who you nominate to be the guardian of your minor child and who should wind up your estate.

Khan says if one dies without a will, it is the duty of the state to bequeath the deceased's assets. 

“Should you pass away without a will, you do not get a say in respect of who will inherit your assets. The Intestate Succession Act will dictate who your heirs are and that might not be your intention. For example, if a child was abandoned by their parents at birth, then as an adult amassed a sizeable estate and passes away without a spouse or children, the intestate succession act dictates that the biological parents of the deceased will inherit the estate in equal shares.

". If you disinherit your spouse, they can claim against your estate in terms of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act, but they can't contest your will to include them. If they are successful in their maintenance claim, then they will be a creditor of the estate, not an heir,” says Khan. 

She says it is important to leave enough money in one's estate so that when one dies, the beneficiaries of the inheritance do not have to be burdened by the deceased's debt.

“Make sure you take marital regime into account, nominate guardians for your minor children, make provision for a testamentary trust for your minor children and nominate trustees, nominate an executor who works as an executor and make sure that you have enough cash in your estate to settle debt and for provision for your family members who are dependent on you. If you don't have enough cash, use life insurance as a tool to provide cash to your estate/family,” says Khan.

Dilon Subramanian, head of advice and fulfilment at Absa Trust says: “There are certain situations that can prevent someone from inheriting an estate. For instance, if a person writes a will, or any portion of it, on behalf of the testator (the person who has made a will), they and their spouse may be disqualified. Additionally, a witness to a will cannot inherit from the deceased's estate if they are found to be responsible for the person's death. There are also other circumstances that are related to common law and statutory principles.”  

As part of National Wills week awareness this week, Absa Trust is offering free drafting of a will, including the safe storage of the signed document for a period of 12 months.

Anyone above the age of 16 can have a will.  Subramanian advises to seek professional advice from a qualified professional to help with your estate plan and make sure that your estate has enough liquidity.  

“Regularly review your will, at least once a year or whenever there are significant changes in your affairs. Make sure you understand the costs associated with your estate and plan accordingly. Consider including special instructions in your will, such as burial or cremation preferences, and make sure they reflect your religious beliefs, if applicable. It's important to avoid trying to control things from beyond the grave, as this can create problems for your heirs. Finally, keep your will in a safe place or consider storing it in safe keeping with a service provider,” says Subramanian. 

What are the requirements for a valid will?

  • It must be in writing;
  • Testator/testatrix must be 16 years or older;
  • Must be signed by the Testator/testatrix in the presence of witnesses;
  • The Testator/testatrix must have sound mind;
  • It must be signed by two witnesses in the presence of the Testator/testatrix; and
  • The witnesses must be 14 years or older and competent enough to give evidence in a court of law.– Source: Liberty Insurance and Investment

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