This always feels like a bit of a depressing subject to deal with your Will and Last Testament and one that people just do not want to deal with. But with everything that has been going on in the world we all have realized that there is a limit to everything in life and that it is very important to have all your legal stuff sorted. This includes your personal legal documents.
In the end it is only going to be your family that you will be leaving with all the problems, sorting, and managing everything when you are gone. Why am I saying that it will be your loved ones?
Well having a will and last testament is not just about deciding who gets what, but it is also there to protect your children and help your family wind up your estate after you have died.
What is an Estate?
Most people think that an Estate just refers to what you leave behind when you die. But it is not true – you already have an estate, even while you are sitting and reading this. Your estate is everything that you own, assets, creditors, accounts – the economic you.
And the reality is that when you are not here anymore those accounts need to be settled and closed. If you have a property it needs to be transferred. Assets and ownership need to be changed and you also need to deal with the question of guardianship for your children.
As you can see it not a matter of just dying and drinking wine in heaven. (which hopefully one of the things God has in mind for us) Your accounts and assets do not turn to dust when you die. It must be dealt with – formally. More importantly SOMEONE MUST DEAL WITH IT.
That is where the frustration comes in… and this then leads to the next point.
What is a Will and Last Testament?
This is a document that you sign personally together with witnesses that states what is going to happen to your estate after you pass and WHO MUST DEAL WITH IT. It is a very important document to have.
You might think – okay but I really don’t own anything so I probably don’t need a will. This is really very far from the truth. Because the fact is that someone needs to sort out and tie up your personal stuff when you pass on.
What happens if I don’t have a Will?
The law makes provision for a person passing on either INTESTATE or TESTATE. I know this sounds like big scary words, but it basically means that you can either pass on WITH A WILL (Testate) or WITHOUT A WILL (Intestate).
If you have a Will then your loved ones will be able to wind up your estate by appointing the executor (which you have named in your will). This then helps your loved ones to deal with everything with minimal frustration. You must remember that it is very hard for the people you leave behind to deal with you passing on emotionally, and then having all the financial arrangements, their normal job and perhaps children. And on top of everything else they have sort out your legal stuff when you leave. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for them.
Then what happens when you don’t have a will – well basically the State then appoints attorneys or executors to wind up your estate. If you have minor children (younger than 18) then the State becomes the guardian. The Intestate Succession Act has specific rules about who inherits what. For example, you perhaps leave behind a husband and children. Then your assets will be distributed amongst them. If you leave behind just parents then it will be distributed between them.
You can see that this is not an ideal scenario.
How to Sign it and where do I keep my Will?
Will is one of those documents that needs to be signed originally and filed originally. You cannot have an electronic version of it. It’s good to have that for reference purposes but the original one needs to be kept safe somewhere.
Also be sure that your loved ones or executor knows where it is. It really doesn’t help to keep it so safe and secure that no one can find it after you have passed.
You have to make sure that you sign your will on each and every page. Also that it is witnessed by two witnesses who are competent, meaning older than 18 years. IMPORTANT WITNESSES CANNOT BE BENEFICIARIES OF YOUR WILL. The reason is because it cannot look like someone influenced you. In other words when signing:
- you sign each and every page in full at the bottom
- have 2 witnesses older than 18 who are not going to inherit, like a friend, sign all the pages in full with you
- keep the original in a safe place
- Let your executor and loved ones know where you keep it
You probably have a gazillion more questions about Wills and for this reason I have put together a tutorial on Wills and just understanding the basics of it. It is something that you can put together by yourself. If you have a complicated will with lots of tax implications and estate it is always best to see your tax practitioner or attorney to help you draft your will.
You can get my Will template on my website, easy to use and simple to complete for any straight forward Will.