Guard against fraud with credible executor from a reputable organisation, expert warns

Having a will keeps wolves at bay after death

19 April 2021 - 07:20
By Lindile Sifile
Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/EVGENYI LASTOCHKIN Stock photo.

A will is there to protect your assets and to ensure that your estate is distributed to your beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes.

According to the department of justice (DoJ), a will is a document in which a person sets out what must happen to their estate when they die. A person can also nominate the person or people, known as executors, who should administer their estate after their death.

The masters of the the high courts have estimated that more 70% of working South Africans don't have wills, making their assets vulnerable to being distributed to people the deceased may not have wanted to benefit from their estate.

“If you pass away without a will, the process [estate distribution] will be administered according to the rules specified in the Intestate Succession Act, which means that your wishes will not necessarily be carried out. You should have a will in place the moment you start accumulating any assets,” advised George Robertson, director of Galileo Advisory Services. Only people above the age of 16 can have wills.

Because of the lack of wills, unmarried partners are often left with nothing, especially if the deceased had a previous marriage. In some cases the children’s inheritance is passed to the Government Guardian’s Fund or appointed guardian rather than to a trust that will ensure the deceased's wishes for them are carried out.

Robertson warned that wills should be drafted by a credible executor from a reputable organisation.

Only a written will is recognised legally. It has to be signed in front of two independent witnesses, in one another’s presence, and in the presence of the person signing the will. The will must also be dated to ensure that the latest wishes of the deceased are implemented, according to the DoJ.

“There are a lot of formalities with the drafting and signing of a will, so ensure to approach the right organisation to prepare your will. You can change your will at any time by doing a new will and cancelling the existing will, or by amending your existing will by way of a codicil,” said Robertson.

To guard against fraud, it is always a good idea to approach a reputable company that will keep the original copy of your will and family members can receive a copy and the details of the company where the will is kept. Transparency will reduce the risk of fraud or dishonesty. A copy of a will is not deemed valid.