Clients rush to update wills

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
You can draw a new will or update an existing one online to adhere to the lockdown regulations.
You can draw a new will or update an existing one online to adhere to the lockdown regulations.
Image: 123RF

Since health minister Zweli Mkhize indicated that an estimated number of 40,000 to 45,000 South Africans could die from Covid-19 by November, a number of law firms have seen a spike in requests for wills, Consumer Line has discovered.

Experts believe that, as it stands, the health system does not have the capacity to treat patients in their intensive care units.

According to the CEO of wills and estate administration company at Capital Legacy Alex Simeonides, the minister's comments may have triggered the rise of inquiries from South Africans who want to draw new wills and updated the existing ones.

"It has become apparent that South Africans are also ensuring that they have their wills updated and, in some cases, have taken the time to ensure that they do indeed have a valid will in place due to the outbreak of the coronavirus," Simeonides said.

He said the national lockdown had spurred many South Africans to complete their wills online or over the telephone.

Simeonides said social distancing regulations and a phased reopening of businesses over the coming months could make it difficult to ensure that these new or updated wills comply with the law.

Simeonides said there were ways to validate the new and updated wills which adheres to the social distancing regulations.

He said legislation required a last will and testament to have an original signature from the testator or testatrix, as well as those of two independent witnesses and some can't have witnesses at this stage due to the social distancing regulations.

"Some people have not been able to print out their wills in order to sign them. In other cases, they have not been able to get two independent witnesses to sign it as is required by the law," said Simeonides.

He said one solution was to provide an additional declaration stating that you have signed your will either digitally or in original format, but under special circumstances that do not allow you to have it witnessed.

Should you pass away, this then allows the executor of your estate to petition the high court, which does incur legal costs, to accept the latest version as your last will and testament.

Simeonides said if consumers signed such a declaration during the lockdown, they should keep it attached to their latest will and place it in safe custody.

"Tell your family where you have placed your will and even better, print a second signed original version and use a courier to send it to a third-party or trusted advisor for safekeeping," Simeonides advised.

He said signing the additional declaration, your loved ones can approach the court to ensure that your will was accepted and your wishes honoured.

MyWill brainchild attorney, Matthew De Wet of De Wet du Plessis Attorneys, concurred with Simeonides.

De Wet said according to the recent reports of spikes in request for wills, it showed that South Africans were waking up to the seriousness of protecting their loved ones.

He added that the challenge of signing a will or having witnesses were addressed in MyWill platform which was newly established to also take care of the legalities and to meet the requirements of social distancing.

He said consumers could apply for a will on MyWill online.

De Wet said MyWill was an innovative online solution that allowed anyone to quickly and affordably create a valid will at a fee of R199 for a single will or R250 for a joint will.

De Wet said the complicated process of creating a will has now been simplified and automated, a process that attorneys study for years to perfect.

" MyWill was created to ensure that no family is left fighting complicated legal battles after losing their loved ones," De Wet said.

He said if you die without a will, according to the South African law, your estate would be decided between your family members and no consideration would be given to any of your wishes.

"This includes the guardianship and inheritance of the minor children. The appointment of the executor or the future of any asserts and businesses that are owned," he said.

He said a user of MyWill can create a legal sound and binding will in a matter of minutes.

With MyWill, the many unforeseen consequences of dying without a will are taken care of, including the guardianship and inheritance of the minor children.

The appointment of the executor and the continuation of family business and fair division of asserts, who the balance of the estate goes to and the specific funeral direction.

De Wet said the software guided the user easily through the legal terms involved in the process of translating personal wishes into a will.

"If at any point the consumer does not understand any term or phrase used, the platform allows them to hover their curser over the question mark tool and get a full yet simple explanation," De Wet said.

He said once the consumer had signed the will according to the specific rules that the platform outlines, they were left with a legally binding document.

"If consumers can't print their will, or have it witnessed due to the lockdown conditions as required by law, our law firm has it covered and will send them lockdown instructions, guiding them on how to validly and lawfully execute their wills," he said.

These instructions will accompany the consumer's will built on the platform, he said.

He said MyWill allowed consumers to update their wills without costly trips to the lawyers' office.

"This is useful since consumers could update their wills upon the death of a loved one or new births and changes to the relationship status," De Wet said.

For more information on MyWill visit https://dwdplaw.co.za/products/last-will-and-testament/ or email matthew@dwdplaw.co.za

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