What happens to our money and possessions when we die? The Egyptians thought they could take theirs with them. Today we like to leave our money to family, friends or worthy organisations. To make sure that happens, we have to write a clear and legal will. If we don’t, we will have no say on where our assets go. Not all of us will leave behind a fortune but most of us will leave something. If you do not have a will when you die the following will happen:
- If you were married without children your partner will inherit everything.
- If you had children and you left behind less than R125 000, your partner will also inherit everything.
- If you left behind more than R125 000 your children will inherit as well. The amount is based on a specific formula depending on the size of the estate.
- If you never got married or had children, your money and belongings will go to your parents.
- If your parents are no longer alive your estate goes to your next closest relation.
- If no relations can be found, your money will go into a fund called the Guardian of the higher court.
- If by that time no family member comes forward to claim it, it goes to the government.
- If you have not nominated guardians for your children they will become wards of the state and they will decide who raises them.
The only way to really make sure your money goes to the people you’ve chosen and to ensure your children go to the correct family members, is to write a will. Jotting it down on a scrap of paper is not good enough. Writing up a will needs careful consideration and most times it will require the help of a professional to ensure its validity.
- Here are the basics of a legal will:
- It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses
- Witnesses cannot be people who will benefit from your will.
- Every page must be signed. Sign directly under the last words on each page. If you don’t, someone could add something later without your knowing.
- Any changes you make to your will must be in the presence of a commissioner of oaths and witnesses.
- If any of these rules are broken your will may be declared invalid or it may be contested.
The cost of a will depends on how complex it is. An attorney charges around R800-R1500. Banks do it for free if you appoint them as executors of the estate. They will charge you around 3,5% of the estate as a fee. You can appoint a trusted friend or relative to be the executor and potentially save a lot of money but they need to be up for the job. Winding up an estate as many processes to be followed and it needs time and commitment from the executor. If you have amasses substantial assets then you should use someone well versed in the process.
- Other important Points to consider.
- If you leave your money to anyone under the age of 18, it will go into the guardian’s fund.
- Update your will regularly, as your personal and financial position changes. Failure to do this means that you could accidentally leave everything to someone that you would not ordinarily want to inherit.
- Make sure your family knows where your will is.
If you want a final laugh from the grave, you could attach some conditions to your will. However, if those wishes are considered impossible to execute, immoral or illegal, your beneficiaries will get the money anyway. For instance, if you really didn’t like your son’s wife and you insisted that he divorced her before he could get your money, the court would rule against this and he would get the A will is our last chance to do something good for a relation, friend or organisation. Mostly, death comes unannounced so make sure your last act of generosity is clearly stated. If you’re over 16 and you own anything at all write a will.