It may surprise you to know that a large number of South Africans either have no wills or have wills that are invalid.
It is imperative to draft and execute a valid will during your lifetime to ensure that upon your death, your wishes are fully given effect to. The public often does not fully realise the consequences when no will has been executed.
Without a valid will, there will be difficulties
People often feel reluctant to spend money on the legal costs of having a will drafted, as the benefit seems remote at the time that they are signing. However, what they fail to appreciate is that the pain and chaos experienced by heirs in the event of the deceased dying having left no will often far outweighs the costs of paying for the drafting of a will.
With reference to invalid wills, various factors can affect the validity or effectiveness of a will, including but not limited to instances where for example dates and signatories have been left out, insufficient witnessing, or where the beneficiaries had signed as witnesses etc. This can be true even in those instances when the testator’s intentions are clear.
Dying without a will or leaving behind a will that is invalid will result in the Master of the High Court being forced to apply the rules specifically drawn up for intestate estates and therefore not giving effect to the testator’s true intentions usually causing inconvenience of significant disruption for the family. In practice, this could bring about a situation where a family member, in particular the surviving spouse, is under a mistaken belief as to how the estate will be distributed. Whatever solution is arrived at, the absence of a will is likely to give rise to conflict and a sense of injustice. This can add to the emotional distress and complicate the grieving process, which is already difficult for those that are left behind.
The importance of a valid will
In our experience, the most important reasons why you should draft a will are that:
-You can ensure that your assets go to the beneficiaries you desire rather than depending on a court to decide for you;
-The existence of a will speeds up the estate process considerably, allowing your beneficiaries to get the assets sooner;
-The existence of a will reduces the chance of family disputes over property;
-You can include provisions for heirs with special needs;
-In addition to specifying who you want your assets to go to, you can (if it is important to you) also let your beneficiaries know how you would like for them to use those assets.
Our advice to you
So what advice is there for you who now would like to avoid this sort of unhappy situation for your family once you pass on? There is only one piece of advice that will allow for genuine security, and that is to make use of the services of an attorney to ensure that your intentions are efficiently captured so that they can be given effect to when you die.Please do not hesitate to contact Gunstons if you are in need of help drafting a will.
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