A last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave behind for your family

A last will and testament is important for your bereaved family, especially if some of them are financially dependent on you, such as a family member. B. Minor children, a lifelong partner to whom you are not married, or aging parents.

Research by Sanlam shows that 75% of South Africans do not have a will and it is unfortunately a fact that when you die without a will your estate is not always distributed as you wish, especially if you are left unmarried with a long-term partner.

In 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled in the Bhanya Affair that Parliament was best placed to determine the rights of long-term partners who rely on the deceased’s financial support and enact legislation that would be enforceable.

Allison Alexander, practice head of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Trusts and Estates practice, says contrary to popular belief, living together or living together is not a recognized legal relationship in South Africa.

“This means that in the event of your death without a will, your entire estate will be distributed under statutory inheritance law, meaning your partner has no say in the distribution and your loved ones are in an uproar. ”

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Remember that life is unpredictable

That’s also what many consumers have learned during the pandemic: Life is unpredictable and our circumstances can change at any time, and you need to get your financial matters in order as part of your savings and investment process, says Mariska Comins, head of technical support at PSG- Wealth.

She says estate planning is a crucial building block in your savings and investment journey, and perhaps the most important.

“Your life is fluid and will change, as will your needs and goals. Therefore, your financial plans must be flexible enough to adapt to your goals even as they change. However, once you are dead, there is nothing you can do to change your plans.”

The last thing you want to do is mess up your affairs and leave your loved ones with a challenge to deal with. “Experience teaches us that an untimely death in a family where the deceased did not have an estate plan can often lead to a major family dispute.”

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What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is designed to preserve and legally protect your wealth during your lifetime while ensuring that it is effectively distributed to succeeding generations after your death.

An estate plan provides the ability to choose your beneficiaries and what they will inherit, appoint a guardian for your minor children, and decide who will manage the funds left by your minor children and ensure that those financial obligations are met.

It also ensures that your financial loved ones are well taken care of, structure your affairs to minimize taxes, and ensure that there is enough money in your estate to cover day-to-day expenses while the estate is being processed.

Comins points out that an estate plan is not just about making a will and covering the financial aspects of dying, but also about creating a plan that will make things easier for the bereaved by ensuring your family is well taken care of, when you are no longer there.

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You can add other considerations, e.g. For example, what will happen to your pets, your domestic workers, other financial dependents such as parents and people who are not financial dependents but who want to inherit something from you, e.g. B. an adult stepchild.

It is also important for people close to you to know where all important documents are located such as passport, driver’s license, gun licenses, updated tax returns, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, loyalty cards, loyalty rewards/programs, social media accounts, memberships, vehicle registration documents and title deeds are stored.

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Tell people what your desires are

You also need to make sure your family members are aware of your desires and finer details, e.g. B. What is your wish regarding your remains?

Comins says many people only mention cremation but don’t say anything about what to do with their ashes.

If you die intestate, South Africa’s law of legal succession determines the distribution and beneficiaries of your estate and the end result could be very different from what you would have chosen while you were alive.

Moremadi Mabule, Head of Wills at Sanlam Trust, says there are several factors to consider when drafting a will. “When couples marry in community of property, what is known as a joint estate arises.

“This means that the instructions contained in the will relate to half of the joint estate and that half of the joint estate belongs to the surviving spouse. These are important things to consider when considering the division of your estate.”

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Remember these tips

Also remember:

  • Make sure your instructions can be executed. For example, you can’t give someone your share of a car.
  • Making a single will helps you stay in control of your inheritance and ensure your instructions are carried out as you intended.
  • As a business owner, a will is an essential part of business succession planning and can help avert potential disasters, e.g.
  • Estate planning is crucial for parents of children with severe disabilities as they may never be able to work and support themselves.

Drafting a will can be a relatively easy and inexpensive process depending on your circumstances, Mabule says, and this makes it more inclusive and accessible for those struggling financially.

If you have relatively straightforward requirements, you can fill out a will application form, make a list of assets and liabilities, and write instructions about what needs to be done with your estate, with the details of the beneficiaries.

These wills can be made online for free through the Sanlam website and are perfect for couples who are leaving their respective estates to each other and for people who want to leave everything to their young children but prefer to seek legal advice for more complex wills.

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