Who your property is passed on to depends on whether you have a valid will or not. If you do have a valid will, then your property will be divided according to your wishes stated therein. If you die without a will (called “intestate”), then your property will be divided amongst your immediate family according to the laws of intestate succession.
How do I draft a will?
If you are older than 16, you have the right to create a will, to state who you would want your property to go to when you die. In order for your will to be valid, it needs to be compiled in the proper way.
- According to the law, you have to be mentally competent when you compile your will; this means that you must understand the consequences of creating a will and that you must also be in a reasonable state of mind when you do so.
- You must make sure that your will is in writing in order for it to be valid.
- Two people older than 14 years must witness the creating of your will (these witnesses cannot be beneficiaries).
- You have to sign in full every page of the will and then sign in full on the last page. The witnesses must also sign the will on each and every page.
- You can, and should, approach a lawyer to help you draw up your will to avoid creating an invalid will.
You can appoint an executor in your will to divide your property amongst your loved ones. An executor is the person who will make sure that your property is divided according to your wishes, as set out in your will, and he/she will also settle your outstanding debts. If you don’t choose an executor yourself, then the court will appoint someone, which is usually a family member.
What are the risks of not having a will?
If you don’t have a valid will when you die, your property will be divided according to the Intestate Succession Act. This Act states that a married person’s property will be divided amongst their spouse and children. The spouse will inherit R250 000 or a child’s share, whichever is the greater and the children the balance of the estate. If you don’t have a spouse or any children, then your property will be divided between other family members. If you also don’t have any blood relatives, then the property will be given to the government. You might think that you do not need a will, as your family will divide your possessions amongst each other, but you must keep in mind that delays in dealing with your estate could affect your family negatively; they might be relying on their inheritance for an income.
- The beneficiaries of your estate will be determined according to the laws of intestate succession, if you die without a will.
- This law determines the distribution of your assets to your closest blood relatives, meaning that your assets may be sold or split up against your wishes.
- Some of your assets could be given to someone in your family that you did not intent to benefit from your estate.
- Without a will, you cannot leave a specific item to a specific family member or friend.
- If you live with someone but are not married to them, the law will not necessarily recognise him/her as a beneficiary of your estate, unless you have left a will naming them as a beneficiary.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).
Western Cape Government. (2017). Making a Will. [online] Available at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/making-will [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].
Momentum.co.za. (2017). Drafting a will and setting up a trust. [online] Available at: https://www.momentum.co.za/wps/wcm/connect/momV1/f150ba2e-3724-4b42-9265-332106cb6b83/drafting+a+will_E+vs+2+%2807032013%29%5B1%5D.pdf?MOD=AJPERES [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].