By David Thomson, 16 October 2019
One item that should never be left for tomorrow, is drawing up your
last will and testament. But, according to the Master of the High Court’s most recent figures, more than 70% of working South Africans have done just that. They don't have wills.
The death of a loved one is a devastating experience to endure but it’s made so much more stressful if they didn’t have a valid will in place, says David Thomson, Senior Legal Adviser at Sanlam Trust, a division of Sanlam Personal Finance.
“As soon as you own any asset, even a bank savings account, you should consider drafting a will. A will allows you the last say on who should receive your assets after you pass away. If you do not have a will, everything you owned will be distributed to family and relatives according to the Intestate Succession Act, and this may not be to your liking.”
So exactly what does a will need to include? Given the massive move to digitisation across most industries, from a legal perspective, can an emailed instruction suffice as a will? Here Thomson suggests the basic pointers:
Ultimately, a court needs to be satisfied that a document drafted by a deceased person was intended to be his or her will. Regardless of the format of your will, the court may order that the document is accepted for the purposes of the
administration of the deceased’s estate. Be prepared though. This may be a long and possibly expensive process, so Thomson doesn’t recommend it. Rather make sure you comply fully with the Wills Act.
“Even if there are no family politics about who will inherit your belongings, everything you leave behind requires some sort of legal process to transfer it to new owners. So your family members can’t simply ‘move in’ and take over where you left off. The legal process can be very lengthy if you did not plan properly for this through your will and nominated a professional executor.”