Consumers can take full advantage this week to have their wills drawn up for free at participating legal practices around the country. Illustration: Colin Daniel
JOHANNESBURG - Consumers can take full advantage this week to have their wills drawn up for free at participating legal practices around the country during National Wills Week.

From today, September 17, until Friday, September 21, is National Wills Week in South Africa, a joint initiative of the six constituent members of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), which includes the Cape Law Society, the Law Society of the Free State, the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, the Black Lawyers Association and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.

South Africans are encouraged, during National Wills Week, to ensure that they get a will drafted, particularly because a selection of lawyers nationally who are affiliated to the LSSA will provide the public with a free basic will during this week.

According to a representative of law firm EnsAfrica, their pro bono offices in Mitchells Plain and Alexandra will be offering free will-drafting services this week for anyone who requests it.

Mvuso Notyesi and Ettienne Barnard, co-chairpersons of the LSSA, said attorneys’ firms throughout the country were participating in the National Wills Week project.

“If you are a parent, a breadwinner, a homeowner and generally want to ensure that your affairs are in order, it is important that you have a valid will drafted by a professional.

“A valid will allows you to state your last wishes, who should inherit your assets and property, to appoint an executor of your choice for your estate and also a guardian for your minor children,” said Notyesi and Barnard.

Jeremy Woods, the head of fiduciary services at leading wealth and financial advisory firm GTC, said there was a growing trend of married or partnered couples to draft separate wills, as opposed to a joint will.

“The assumption that the younger spouse, often the woman, will die after the older one still forms the basis of many separate wills.

“While this may seem like an insignificant issue, it may actually lead to unintended negative consequences for the surviving older spouse, as this forms the basis for the division of assets,” said Woods.

According to Floris Slabbert, a director at Ecsponent Financial Services, a will can take a lot of pressure off a bereaved family during the time of death and removes some of the anxiety by providing certainty about how one’s assets should be distributed.

“A will can name an executor, distribute property, designate guardians and provision for your children, stipulate how to settle debts and have a clearly defined plan to minimise the tax burden, among others,” said Slabbert.

* The contact details of the attorneys who are participating in the National Wills Week project can be accessed on the LSSA website at www.LSSA.org.za.

- PERSONAL FINANCE