7 things to remember about wills

Stian De Witt
24 March 2023
5 min read

What legacy are you leaving for your loved ones and family? The scariest thing about death is who will care for your family when you can’t. You never know when a goodbye will be your last, which is why its key to have a will in place, ensuring that your family is cared for after you are gone.

We often think of wills and estate planning as something that will only be used in the event of dying of old age, but the reality is that unexpected death due to accident, disease or injury can occur at any age, and it’s something we all need to be prepared for.

Leaving a legacy for your family involves planning and making deliberate decisions which ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes as set out in your will, that your loved ones are provided for after your death.

Key aspects to remember about your will

  1. Create a comprehensive will. The foundation of your financial legacy is to create a comprehensive will, which is a legal binding document allowing you to state how you want your assets distributed after your death. A will includes your portfolio of property, money, and personal possessions. Often people don’t realise that in your will, you can specify how you want your debts and taxes to be paid, who should take care of your children, do you want to donate organs and if you want to be cremated/buried.
  2. Update your will regularly. You must update your will regularly to reflect your circumstances and life changes. You need to make note of any births, deaths, marriages, divorces and major life events. Updating your will ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes at present to avoid any disputes that can arise among family members. As often when wills are not updated, there are aspects of the will that are redundant or incorrect as it hasn’t considered major milestones in your life, which causes conflict among your loved ones.
  3. It is important you choose an executor for your will. An executor is a person who manages your estate, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes. When choosing an executor, you should select someone you trust and who has the skills and knowledge to carry out the duties of an executor. They will be responsible for paying any outstanding debts, compiling, and filling out your final tax returns, and ensuring the fair distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries in accordance with your will.
  4. Consider setting up a trust. If you have minor children, your will should provide for their care. The best approach is to set up a trust for their provision. A trust is a legal entity that can hold and manage assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries. The benefit of a trust is that it can minimise your estate tax, while also ensuring there is provision made for the care of your loved ones.
  5. Speak with your family about your wishes. It is key to discuss your wishes with your family, to help avoid any confusion after your death, and will also aid your family in being able to make decisions and prepare for their own financial future. Letting your family know that there is a plan in place helps them have peace of mind in settling your estate swiftly, knowing that your legacy ensures their financial security in the event of your death.
  6. If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the law. If you die without a will, your estate will be wound up according to the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987. In this case, the Master of the High Court will appoint an executor, who is then tasked to investigate the life of the deceased to ascertain who are the inheritors of the estate. The executor will ascertain if the deceased is survived by a spouse and or children, what is the estate worth, if there is any debt, and who are financial dependents on the deceased. If the deceased is not survived by a spouse or children, the estate will be divided or inherited by your closest living relatives, often resulting in disputes among family members. However, this may not be in line with your wishes, making it critically important to have a will.
  7. Consult your financial advisor. Consulting with a financial advisor will help you ensure your will is comprehensive and is part of your holistic estate plan, which meets your goals and wishes in the event of your death. Your financial advisor will also be able to advise you on other key and important considerations for your will according to your circumstances.

To create a valid will you must be of sound mind and legal age, and you must sign your will in the presence of a witness who is not a beneficiary of your estate.

A will is important regardless of age, or the size of your estate. Leaving a legacy to ensure you family is cared for after your death, involves careful planning and decision-making. By creating a comprehensive plan and regularly reviewing your will, you will be able to ensure your loved ones are provided for.

Speak to an NMG financial planner who will be able to assist you in creating a will to meet your needs and the needs of your family.

T&Cs apply. NMG Financial Planning (Pty) Ltd (Co Reg No. 1999/002506/07) is an Authorised Financial Services Provider - FSP 6713


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