Nicolene Schoeman, Schoeman Tshaka Attorneys (Cape Town)
We have a universal need to be remembered and to better the lives of our families, loved ones and community after death. However, when passing without a Will we achieve quite the opposite as family disputes may arise, financial hardship result for those left behind, or worse – our true wishes are not carried out. It is estimated that more than 50% of South Africans die every year without leaving behind a legally valid Will. If, at the time of your death, you have no Will or your Will is invalid, or does not deal with your entire estate and your specific wishes, you are said to have died intestate.
Can I prepare my own Will?
The short answer to that is, yes; the correct answer is, no.
Anyone who is able to read and write can record their testamentary wishes in some written or typed form. However, writing a Will is not only a simple statement of what you want to happen to your possessions on your death. Given that it is a legal document, drafting a Will is a specialised function and the contents interpreted with reference to the complex laws which govern the probate process.
To ensure you have a say in what happens to your assets and that your estate is executed efficiently and effectively, it is extremely important to have a Will professionally drawn and to regularly update it as your personal circumstances and fortunes change. A legally valid Will is vital to allow the heirs of your choice to inherit from you, prevent fraud and to ensure that your wishes are carried out. These can include supporting a philanthropic cause, nominating your executor, funeral arrangements and settlement of debts.
Anyone attempting to draft a Will should have a working knowledge of the relevant and current legislation. Inheritance is regulated by the country’s legal system (Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987) and not having a legally valid Will could mean that surviving family members are unable to provide the necessary financial security to the Master of the High Court. In the absence of a nominated executor, the court will appoint someone they deem fit, which can seriously delay the administration of the estate, without a Will your estate may also be heavily taxed.
Schoeman Tshaka Attorneys are passionate about creating awareness of the need to have a professionally drafted will. They offer a special 15 % discount on the fee for drafting a basic will for referrals from the Children’s Hospital Trust and work with the Trust to assist their supporters in leaving a truly meaningful legacy for future generations.