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As the document expressing your last wishes, a will may well be the most important document you will ever sign, so make sure it meets all the legal requirements.

Dave Thompson, Senior Legal Adviser at Sanlam Trust, says it’s not uncommon to find that people don’t want to spend money on the drafting of a will by a legal professional, or worse, think they don’t need a will at all.

He argues that this is extremely short-sighted, as anyone who dies without a will or with an invalid will, risk leaving their family to suffer the consequences.

These tips and guidelines can help ensure that
all is well with your will:

Ensure your will is valid

The three most critical things to consider is that your will is properly signed and witnessed, and kept in a safe place. A will that doesn’t comply with the basic prescribed formalities can create significant legal risk.

To draft a will you must have the capacity (including mental capability) to formulate it; be at least 16 years old and able to appreciate the nature of what you’re creating and the effect that it may have.

To sign the will, consider this:

  • The person who creates the will must sign each and every page.
  • Two competent witnesses (aged at least 14) must be present when the person who creates the will, signs it.
  • Both witnesses have to indicate that they were present when the will was signed. They have to sign the last page of the will together, in the presence of whoever created the will and of each other. There’s also an onus on them to ensure the will has been signed by the person whose name appears on it, as the creator of the document.
  • If the will consists of more than one page, the person who creates the will must sign each page. Although witnesses don’t have to sign each page, it’s wise to do so as it may avoid allegations of someone having slipped a new page into the will at a later date.
  • If you ever amend your will, make sure it still complies with all of these formalities.
  • Finally, insert the date next to the signatures – even if this isn’t a legal requirement. It can help avoid possible disputes about whether this will is indeed the last will and testament.

Who may NOT witness a will?

Anyone with an indirect or direct interest in the estate should not act as a witness; and neither should trustees, executors and their spouses.

How Sanlam Trust can help you

If you send a will to Sanlam Trust for safekeeping, it will be quality assessed to ensure that it has been correctly drafted, signed on each page and witnessed.

If you suspect that your will or that of a close family member doesn’t comply with all of the necessary formalities, take immediate steps to rectify this.

Contact Sanlam Trust to review or redraft the will – with or without any required changes – and it’ll be returned to you for signature at no further cost if you are already a Sanlam Trust client.



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