Hanno Bekker
Hanno Bekker

ANALYSIS: The ins and outs of wills

By Hanno Bekker Time of article published Jun 21, 2019

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A will does not have an expiry date, strictly speaking. However, it is recommended that you review your will at least once every three years. 

You should also do so sooner when major life events take place, such as a major illness, getting married or divorced, when there is a death in the family and when a child is born.

When you draw up a new will, stipulate that any others are no longer valid. At the top of your latest will, you should make it clear that this is the latest and only will that declares all older versions void. 

Doing this will help in a court case if someone disputes the outcome of the will, because it will showcase the latest date and state that all other wills have expired as a result.

Make sure you name the executor of your will. In this way you will know that a competent individual is looking after your affairs when you are no longer there.

However, an executor cannot be someone who is a beneficiary in the will.

Be as specific as possible in your will about who inherits what. Do not simply state that you are leaving all of your belongings to a spouse or another party. Specify each and every item of any value with clear instructions of who inherits it. Be as specific as you possibly can.

Communicate a death plan ahead of time. In this way you can ensure that your most recent will be the one made available. 

State where your will is being held at all times, together with all other documents, such as insurance policies. 

That way, your loved ones will be aware of where your final testament and will is being stored. Remember, you will not be there to guide them while they are mourning you, and you do not want to leave them behind with any unnecessary confusion.

Try to draw up your will at the same institution at all times. Whether you are using an attorney, a bank or another qualified individual or institution to help with your will, try to stick to one - in this way there will not be confusion about what your last will says and what it stipulates.

You must have two witnesses, older than 14 years old, to sign your will. However, as with the executor of the will, these witnesses cannot be beneficiaries named in the will who will inherit something. Be very careful with this, because if one or both witnesses are beneficiaries, it can be claimed that they had influence on your decisions regarding your will, and it might lead to them inheriting a bare minimum, if not nothing at all.

Anyone drawing up a will must be of sound mind at the time of drawing it up. An invalid can therefore not draw up a will as it will not be considered as a legal document, because it can be successfully argued that they were not in a sane state of mind.

You can specify what must happen to an asset after your beneficiary's death. This means that you can decide who will inherit the asset after your specific beneficiary dies. You may do this for up to two generations. For example, you can leave your house to your son, but stipulate that he can benefit from it only after your spouse dies. Your spouse can therefore live there, rent it out as a source of income or benefit from it in similar ways. It is only after your spouse's death that your son will benefit from the house in any way and the asset transferred into his name.

Hanno Bekker is the founder and director of Bekker Attorneys.


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