Did you know that more than 75% of South Africans pass away without a valid will in place, causing devastating consequences for their families and dependants?

To help combat this statistic, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) promotes National Wills Week every year, with participating attorneys offering their will-drafting services for basic wills at no cost to clients.

Wills Week is normally in September, but due to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, the LSSA has officially announced that National Wills Week will be from 26 – 30 October this year. By making a will you ensure that your assets are disposed of in accordance with your wishes after your death. This privilege is called ‘freedom of testation’.

According to Capital Legacy, the reality is that most people know they need a will, but statistics show that South Africans are notorious procrastinators. “In a recent survey we conducted, we asked people why they haven’t got their wills in order,” says Alex Simeonides, CEO and co-founder of Capital Legacy. The results?

  • 43% of respondents said: “I just haven’t got around to it”. 
  • 27% said: “I’m not sure where to get my Will done”. 
  • 21% said: “I think it might be expensive to get a Will”.
  • Only 9% of respondents said they think they don’t need a Will.

Why should an attorney draft your will?

Attorneys are professionals qualified in law. An attorney can advise you on any problem which may arise with regard to your will. An attorney has the necessary knowledge and expertise to ensure that your will is valid and complies with your wishes.

Often a will is not valid because the person who drafts it does not have the necessary legal knowledge to ensure that the requirements of the law are met.

What happens to your estate if you die without a valid will?

If you die without leaving a valid will, your assets will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. The provisions of this Act are generally fair and ensure that your possessions are transferred to your spouse and children.

BUT, the following problems may arise if you die without leaving a will:

  • Your assets and family heirlooms may not be left to the person(s) of your choice. 
  • Your partner may be left with nothing if you are not married, or your will is not updated from a previous marriage.
  • It can take a long time to have an executor appointed. The executor who is appointed may be somebody you may not have chosen yourself.
  • Your children’s inheritance could pass to the Government Guardian’s Fund or an appointed guardian rather than to a Trust that will ensure your wishes for them are carried out.
  • Winding up your estate can take years and the Government will essentially be in control of the process.
  • There can be extra and unnecessary costs.

Families often struggle to deal with the devastating loss of a loved one, and this struggle is made infinitely more difficult when your affairs are not in order. Unhappiness and conflict among members of your family could arise and even lead to long-lasting feuds if there are no clear instructions on how to distribute your assets.

For more information on National Wills Week, visit the Law Society of South Africa’s website, www.lssa.org.za

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