by Johann Verster
Few things in life are as certain as the fact that we will all have to lay down our heads one day. But to “plan” our inevitable death – whenever – is especially crucial in today’s society.
Not many people know when it will happen, and most people pass unexpectedly – an accident, a heart attack or stroke, blood clots, etc., and in a country like South Africa, unfortunately also from other causes.
All one can do is to prepare for the day when your children, spouse, partner, best friend – or in some cases even your parents – have to convey the message to your other loved ones. The best you can do is to provide for the day when your children, spouse, partner, best friend – or in some cases even your parents – have to convey the message to your other loved ones.
Based on this, I did some research and spoke to people who know more about this than I do – Jan Swanepoel, a private consultant from North-West near Brits (South Africa).
How can you be prepared?
It is absolutely essential that you draw up a will, but this is only the beginning.
You should – just as you plan your life in terms of short and long-term goals – plan what should happen when you die. We all have to die one day…
Many and varied reasons exist – you have certain (sometimes unique) ideas or plans for what should happen to your property and financial affairs when you pass on. “You can’t expect your neighbour to quickly pop over to help your bereaved loved ones. For that you need a legal document to set out your wishes in writing. This is called a will.
Why do you need such a document?
You may want to bequeath something that is of considerable sentimental value to you, to someone in particular, such as your grandfather’s historic hunting rifle, which has been in the family for generations; you may want to provide for your spouse or minor children, or need to ensure that even adult children – especially if disabled, for example – should receive ongoing financial support. You also may have a single property that needs to be divided between three heirs, or shares or investments of high value and need to be divided fairly among your remaining spouse and/or children.
Your so-called “last will and testament” can be a simple or very complicated document, and it depends on what you want to do. But it is an essential document. As unpleasant as it is, you need to plan from early in your adult life what should happen after yur death, otherwise you might just put the people you love and wanted to help, in an unintended predicament, which might even tear apart families.
For example, if a couple get divorced and the husband remarries without drawing up a new will, his second wife may end up with nothing as his ex-wife will inherit everything. The last valid will drawn up, will always prevail.
A valid will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. Only the original version can be submitted to the Master of the High Court after the testator’s death by his or her executor who is tasked to settle the estate. A certified (sworn) copy, which as such is also signed by the testator and the two witnesses, as well as a peace officer confirming the authenticity and origin of the original, can be submitted if the original document cannot be located or if it may have been destroyed (in a fire, for instance).
The testator’s next of kin must know about it and should also know where the original document is kept in safe custody. Allow the legal person who drew it up, to safe-keep it and ensure your next of kin know who and where they are.
To ensure this, it is a good idea to keep it in a Legacy File together with all your other documents, which we will discuss in part 2.