Roughly 90% of all South Africans don’t have a Will, but writing up and having a Last Will and Testament needn’t be a scary or expensive thing to do. You just need help from a professional to guard your family’s future.
When someone passes away without a will, The Master of the High Court may appoint what is known as an executor-dative who will be responsible for administering your estate (all your money, assets and belongings are called an 'estate'). You have no control over who this person (most likely a family member or attorney) will be, and no guarantee that they will know what your wishes for your assets are since there is no Will to give them guidance and instructions. They probably won’t know that your sister always wanted your jewellery collection, for example. They may not know about children outside of wedlock you’ve had and need to provide for, they may not make provision for your parents, and so on. Without a Will, your estate must be administered by a set of rules called “intestate succession”.
But more importantly than that, your estate is frozen until it is decided who is to be appointed to take care of your estate. That means any funeral policy, any Stokvel amount you had saved, the retirement savings taken out of your salary by your company – none of your loved ones can access any of that until things are finalised. And without a Will, this takes much longer.
After your death your family must search for your Will and cannot simply assume there isn’t one. So even if there is no Will, they have to waste time looking for one among personal papers, searching the house, inquiring with your bank or accountant or insurance company – this takes time. Then, things need to be administered and managed by the court if there is no Will – by the ‘Master of the High Court’- an official of the Dept. of Justice. And as we all know, the courts can take a long time. In the meantime, the expenses of things like the funeral, bond instalments; rental and other usual living costs must all be managed by your surviving loved ones who may not be able to afford it.
If you have no spouse (and that means with a legally recognised certificate of marriage) and you have no children, then your estate is at the mercy of the laws of intestate succession Your estate will be left to any living relatives; which could be people you would not have chosen to inherit your estate. You have no control over who gets what if you don’t have a Will.
All these things are scary, but drafting a legal Will can give you peace of mind for the rest of your life.
Think about it. It’s your money, it’s your life. It should be done your way.