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Being a parent can be tough, and scary. Especially the responsibility of ensuring that our children are well cared for and protected. Even more scary: how can we live with confidence knowing that they’ll be supported and prosperous long after we’ve gone?

One of your best tools to achieve this is a will, says Moremadi Mabule, Head of Wills at Sanlam Trust. Why? Because if a parent dies without a will, the challenges and repercussions can be enormous. Critically, if you die without a will, your child’s inheritance will be paid into the state’s Guardian’s Fund, which can mean a lengthy process before funds can be accessed.

Mabule says that in the case of minor children (under 18), parents should ensure that they nominate a guardian. This is vital, because passing away without having appointed a guardian can trigger a potentially complex and traumatic debate about who will look after your children. “And this, after all, is not a decision you want to leave to someone else,” she says.

She lists what you need to know when choosing a guardian for your child:

  • A natural guardian is a biological parent – whether married or not, both parents have parental rights and responsibilities.
  • A parent who is the sole-surviving guardian may appoint a fit and proper person as a guardian, should they pass away.
  • An appointment of a guardian in a will does not remove the surviving parent as a guardian.
  • Co-guardianship is possible, but must be practical; for example, the individuals should live close to each other and have a good relationship with one another.
  • The decision should always be in the child's best interest. If the surviving parent is not a suitable guardian, then, as the upper guardian of all minors, the court may give the guardianship to any other person who applies.

Mabule says parents can also consider drawing up a testamentary trust as part of an instruction in their will to preserve wealth, protect their child’s inheritance and eliminate the possibility of this inheritance being placed in the state’s Guardian’s Fund. The trust is created when you pass away and will remain in place until the child reaches a certain age. “Certain formalities must be met to ensure the trust can be created on your passing, so I strongly suggest working with an estate planning expert to help you draft your will,” she encourages.

“Parents can also consider drawing up a testamentary trust as part of an instruction in their will to preserve wealth, protect their child’s inheritance and eliminate the possibility of this inheritance being placed in the state’s Guardian’s Fund,” says Moremadi Mabule, Head of Wills at Sanlam Trust.

The rights of adopted children

“Whether an adopted or biological child, all children are treated the same in terms of the right to inherit,” says Mabule. “An adopted child can inherit from his/her adoptive parents and their parents’ blood relatives. The child would also be able to inherit from his/her step-parent, should the step-parent formally adopt the child. Similarly, the adoptive parent can inherit from that adopted child.”

Making the right decisions while you still can may not only give you confidence that your children will be properly cared for – but it will give them confidence that their futures have been well thought through and planned. Speak to a financial adviser to help you plan appropriately for your family’s future.

 

 

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