South Africans should take advantage of the opportunity to have their wills drafted during this year's Wills Week from 17 to 21 September, according to Anica Ungerer, director in the estates and trusts department of Mazars.
Wills Week is an annual nationwide initiative that invites people to have basic wills drafted free of charge at any of a number of participating firms across South Africa.
This is specifically aimed at the drafting of new wills, and while it may mean that individuals will only be setting up very basic testaments, they can already be much more secure in the knowledge that their final wishes will be honoured, according to Ungerer.
She points out that the vast majority of working South Africans still die without appropriate instructions about how their property should be divided. Statistics show that approximately only 23% of deceased individuals in South Africa leave wills.
"The administration of deceased estates can become complex and there are various administrative difficulties that can arise if your will was not properly drafted. It is incredibly important, especially for individuals who have dependents, to make sure that they have a legally binding will in place, even if these are just basic instructions," says Ungerer.
"Without a will in place, there may always be a risk that one's dependents are not adequately provided for if they have to rely on their inheritance for an income."
Ungerer explains that there are a number of basic guidelines to follow:
Bring a valid witness
A will must be signed in the presence of two or more competent witnesses, who must be present simultaneously.
Take all your costs and liabilities into consideration first
Individuals can easily bequeath more than they actually have in their estate. Administration costs and liabilities are settled first before the distribution to beneficiaries can take place.
Make sure that beneficiaries are listed correctly
Beneficiaries should be listed as they appear on their identity documents, with their full names and, if possible, their ID or Passport numbers, says Ungerer. She adds that it is advisable to avoid referring to a class of beneficiary, rather than individuals.
Choose the right executor
Ungerer explains that appointing two executors is best for effective estate planning. In her view, it is important to choose an Executor, such as a relative or a friend that your family trusts, to act in conjunction with a professional.
Plan to review your will regularly
Lastly, Ungerer says that individuals need to revisit their wills at regular intervals, or when their circumstances change.
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