There are a number of points to be aware of when drafting a last will and testament to make sure its valid and that what you intended is carried out. Your will forms the foundation of your estate plan. It is therefore critical to make sure you have a will that is not only drafted correctly, but is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
- Who should draft a will?
As soon as you start accumulating assets and even more so once you have anyone dependant on you. Without a valid will the laws of intestate (dying without a will) could mean people inheriting who you have no desire or intention to inherit. It can also mean dependents are left financially vulnerable.
- How old do you need to be to draft a will?
Anyone over the age of 16 and of sound mind is able to draft a will. Of sound mind means you need to understand the consequences of your actions and not be coerced into it. A will drafted under duress or undue influence will be regarded as invalid.
- Should a will be in writing and who signs it?
A will can be handwritten or typed. It simply needs to be legible. You and 2 competent witnesses (who are not beneficiaries of the will) also need to sign every page and the last page close to the last line of the will. A competent witness is anyone older than 14 and of sound mind who understands what they are doing.
- Should I date a will?
While it’s not a legal requirement, it is a good idea to date your will so that if you ever change or update your will, there won’t be confusion if more than one copy is found to determine which is the most recent (valid) version.
- Can I change or revoke my will?
You can make amendments to your existing will at any stage, or revoke your will entirely and draft a new version. Following the correct procedures again is important.
- What happens if I get divorced?
You have 3 months in which to change your will from the date of divorce. If you haven’t revoked or amended your will in that time frame, it will be assumed you wanted your ex to inherit as per the original will.
- Can I use a basic template for my will, or should I get a will professionally drafted?
Like anything, it depends on how basic or complex your needs are. For the most part, we recommend getting it professionally done so that you know everything is done correctly because the consequences of getting it wrong are too great. Having a will professionally drafted is not that expensive and usually costs less than a R1,000.
Estate planning is an essential component of any well crafted financial plan. And estate planning starts with drafting a valid will to ensure your wishes are fulfilled and your estate is dealt with how you intended.
Read next: Estate Planning 101: The Ultimate Guide which provides you with a comprehensive overview and understanding of everything you need to know.