The Importance of a Will

Having a Last Will and Testament (a Will) is one of those topics that is not discussed as often as it should be – it doesn’t exactly ‘come up’ in passing conversation – but it is probably one of the most important documents you will sign in your lifetime.

It is extremely important to have a valid Will that is kept up to date on a regular basis.  We recommend that you review your Will on an annual basis.  If anything has changed with your personal or professional circumstances then an annual review will give you the opportunity to make the necessary amendments, if you have not already done so.

Why do I need a Will?

If you pass away without having a valid Will in place then you will be considered as dying intestate.

Intestate meaning:  One who, having lawful power to make a Will, has made none, or one which is defective in form.

To have died “in intestacy” means that a court-appointed executor (who may or may not have known you) will be responsible for the winding up of your estate.  They will need to collect any assets, pay any liabilities and distribute the assets to those parties that are deemed as beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries that they identity as the rightful heirs might not be the same people that you had planned to leave your estate to.  To ensure that your intended loved ones receive the contents of your estate upon your passing on, it is extremely important to put a valid Will in place.

Additional information from The Master of the High Court – Intestate Succession

What should I consider when drawing up a Will?

It is important to note that just because you forgot about a prior Will, it does not make it invalid.  It only becomes invalid if a more recent Will is found which specifically revokes the earlier Will.

There is certain information that should be detailed in your Will to ensure that your wishes are recorded clearly and effectively.  You will need to detail full names and identity numbers for yourself, your spouse/partner, legal guardians and any beneficiaries.  The first paragraph will cover your personal information – full name, ID number, marital status and type of contract if applicable, as well as your current address.

It is also a good idea to note whether you prefer burial or cremation and then make sure that you have discussed your preference with your immediate family.  In our experience, The Master’s Office does not like do-it-yourself Wills, as well as Wills that are long, drawn out and overly complicated, so we highly recommend getting a professional (like us) to attend to this for you.

Here are a few key points for you to consider:

Executor Appointment

The executor of your estate will bear a huge responsibility and should be someone that you know can handle the task.  Many people think that the most important consideration is to appoint someone that you trust.  While this is true, you also need to keep in mind that if you appoint someone who is not familiar with deceased estate requirements then they will need to appoint someone else to administer on their behalf anyway.  We encourage you to select an executor that has experience in dealing with The Master’s Office, and if you prefer a family member or close friend then speak to them first and make sure that they have some business, tax and financial knowledge – they don’t need to be an expert but the basics help.

Administrator Appointment

The executor of your estate is usually appointed as the administrator by default.  In the case of minor children where a testamentary trust (also known as a Will trust) may need to be formed during the estate winding up, we suggest that the legal guardian be appointed as the sole or joint administrator.  The administrator is responsible for how the Will trust is run, effectively taking responsibility for the financial care and general well-being of the minors (eg: paying for school fees, medical care, general amenities etc) to ensure that the benefit held in the Will trust is not squandered before they reach the age to inherit directly.

Legal Guardian Appointment

This is only applicable if there are minor children to be considered.  In the case of both parents passing together, or within 30 days of each other, a legal guardian(s) will have the legal right to take the children in and be responsible for their care until they reach the age to inherit directly and look after themselves.  It is usually a family member or close family friend.  The age to inherit is specified in the Will – most commonly 21 years of age.

Changes That May Trigger a New Will

The changes may be personal or professional – a few of the most common changes that would trigger an update to your Will would be:

  • marriage / divorce / re-marriage
  • having a baby / adoption
  • the death of a beneficiary listed in your existing will
  • changes to nominations of beneficiaries on life policies
  • changes to ownership of any major assets being left to a specified beneficiary in your will – property, company shares, members interest

If you would like to discuss how you can go about getting a Will drawn up, appointing us as the executor, then please fill in our contact form or email us – fft.estates@gmail.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

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