Get your will to be done

12 November 2018 - 08:43
By thuli zungu AND Thuli Zungu
A daughter is struggling to claim her mother's estate.
Image: 123rf A daughter is struggling to claim her mother's estate.

Writing a will is the most important thing you can ever do for yourself and your family.

If you have assets exceeding R125 000 you should have a will to avoid battles among your children and family.

Norah Mokgosi of Roodepoort was 81-years-old when she drew a will with an assistance of an Absa official to bequeath all her estate to her daughter Tshepang Mokgosi in 2014 though she had two daughters.

Mokgosi kept a copy of her will while she expected the bank to have kept the original in their safe.

Clayton Max, now married to Tshepang, is assisting his wife to get justice from the bank after it turned out that the will his late mother-in-law drew up is now invalid, and her estate has to be distributed as though she never had a will.

Max said Mokgosi took out a will knowing very well what she wanted to happen with her estate when she passed on.

After her death in July, Tshepang and Max went to the Absa branch at Gandhi Square, in the Johannesburg CBD to register the will.

An Absa Trust will consultant called them a month later to determine the value of the deceased's estate, he said.

They were required to email a copy of the will in their possession which they did, he said. A day later they were advised that the will was not valid, Max said.

"As a layman and completely blank when it comes to wills, I was surprised as the will had a barcode and [was] in an Absa folder," he said.

When he inquired for clarity, the bank consultant told him that it was invalid because the first page of the will was not signed, he said.

Max said they decided to visit Absa Roodepoort branch to make a personal inquiry and only then were they told that a registered letter was sent to his mother-in-law in 2014, informing her that the will was never valid from inception.

Max said Absa should validate this will as it was evident that they employed people who were not trained to handle sensitive matters such as a will.

"There was a serious breach of duty and a gross professional negligence from the bank," Max said.

For a will to be valid it must be signed by two competent witnesses who are present at the same time and also in the presence of the testator, Max said.

"All pages must be signed, but they let her go with a copy which was signed only on the last page," he said.

The bank should not have entrusted people not properly trained to work with such serious matters, said Max.

He said as an Absa client, he was entitled to quality customer service as per the Consumer Protection Act.

"I want the Absa to validate this will and take responsibility for the gross professional negligence and breach of duty. It cannot get away with ruining peoples," he said.

He said his wife took care of his late mother-in-law.

Phumza Macanda of Absa said all wills returned for safekeeping at Absa Trust go through a legality check.

Given the fact the will was sent back for safekeeping, and signed correctly on the first page by Mokgosi, and the witnesses on the second page, this makes the will valid. It will be lodged at the Master of the High Court.

"We will arrange for this will to be handed over to the Estates Intake Centre, and for them to contact the client to finalise the reporting of the estate."

To avoid queries from the Master of the High Court or any person trying to contest the validity of a will, Absa Trust implemented the strict rule that if a will is not signed by all parties on all pages, it has to be re-signed, Macanda said.