If you are looking to get your finances in place having a will forms a crucial part of your financial plan.
You can have a will drafted for you or go the D.I.Y route, but what makes or breaks a will at the end of the day is if it's legally valid. We have put together a list of things that can and cannot make a will legal according to the Wills Act 7 of 1953 that is used when drafting wills.
What makes a will valid?
Competence to draft a will. This means you need to be 16 years or older and understand what you are doing when drafting a will. It will not be legalised if the person who has drafted the will has a mental incapacity to understand what a will is and how it affects them.
You cannot be a beneficiary. If you are drafting the will by hand or electronically via a third party i.e. appointing MiWayLife to draft a will for you, you cannot list yourself as a beneficiary. Even if you have someone drafting the will on your behalf, they cannot list themselves either as a beneficiary.
All documents need to be signed. This is to make the documents valid. The will needs to be signed by the testator (Person who is creating the will), and two other witnesses who are present at the time. In a situation where a testator is a person with disabilities or has suffered a stroke, therefore making it hard for them to sign, they can use their fingerprints. The two witnesses need to be at least 14 years or older to sign.
Date your will accordingly. Although this is not a legally binding requirement, it can make it easier to keep track of your latest most updated will if you have more than one will in place. Furthermore, when you die, the latest will that has been drafted will be used.
What doesn’t make a will valid?
An unsigned will. According to the Wills Act 7 of 1953, a will must be signed on every page that it has. Presenting an unsigned last will and testament will not make it legal.
A will with no witnesses. At most two or more witnesses are required to sign a will to make it legal. This is to avoid situations where people draft illegal wills to place claims on a person’s assets or things that have been listed in a will.
A will with illegal conditions. While drafting a legally recognised will can give you some control in terms of the conditions that you can make, it does not allow you to place illegal conditions for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance.
Assets that have joint owners. Passing on a property to someone else or shares require that you be the sole owner of these things. If you have made a purchase with a joint partner, it may be more complex to pass on these assets without legal action being taken.
You can also draft a legally recognised will with MiWayLife, giving you one less thing to worry about. Note, we are currently offering existing MiWayLife clients a free will with no fees incurred. Simply apply below and include your policy number.
Switching a witness to a beneficiary. Beneficiaries cannot be witnesses and vice-versa. This is done to avoid any fraudulent behaviour or foul play in order to have access to what has been stated in the will.