Here’s why it’s vital that you have a valid will
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EVERY year, tens of thousands of South Africans die without a valid will. The effects on their families and loved ones can be devastating, as they are often left without access to funds while the estate is being wound up – a process that can take up to a year, or longer.
It doesn’t have to be that way. This week is National Wills Week, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of having a valid will. Melody Stander, a training specialist at life insurer FMI, says a will gives you the opportunity to ensure your loved ones are looked after once you’ve passed on, and helps prevent undignified disputes over the assets that you leave behind.
“Nobody likes to talk about death, but it’s a reality that we cannot ignore, especially during this time of pandemic. Having a valid will in place means your loved ones have so much less stress to deal with after you’re gone,” says Stander.
If you die without a valid will, you are deemed to have died intestate. This means that you have no say over who inherits your worldly possessions. Instead, your assets and personal belongings will be divided based on the rules of intestate succession, which is dictated by the government.
Even if there is a valid will, if you are married in community of property, the joint estate will be frozen when one spouse dies. This means the surviving spouse’s bank accounts and assets will also be frozen, along with their deceased spouse’s. Many people are also not aware that customary marriages are legally regarded as being married in community of property, says Stander.
“Most South Africans who are married in community of property don’t realise the impact it will have on their family if a joint estate is frozen. During this time, the surviving dependants still need to pay bills, pay for studies, and put food on the table. How do they do that if their access to funds has been cut off?” says Stander.
Once you have a will in place, a good next step in estate planning is to have life insurance in place. Many people die without having enough cash in their estate to pay for estate duty, debts and executor’s fees. In some cases, assets might need to be sold to settle these debts, leaving surviving dependants without a home or an income.
Life Income cover is a good solution to consider. It’s a type of insurance that pays a monthly income directly to your family when you die and ensures that they can maintain their lifestyles and obligations. It is also important to have some lump sum Life Cover in place to cater for estate duty or debts as these must be paid once-off before any other assets or personal belongings can be distributed to your heirs.
“Everybody wants to leave a legacy when they’re gone. There are few better ways of doing that than ensuring the future security of your family – and by getting a will, and looking after their financial needs, you will be doing exactly that. That’s why it’s so important to speak to your financial adviser to ensure that your will is in place,” says Stander.
*For more on wills and estates, read the September 2021 issue of our information-packed IOL MONEY monthly digital magazine.