What is a will and why do I need one?

A Will is an important document for several reasons. Yet, most of all, it provides you with a way to look after your loved ones when you are no longer alive. A Will expresses your wishes and gives direction to an executor regarding how your estate should devolve. By not having a Will, you may cause unintended difficulty for the very ones you would want to look after.

How does a Will work?

In South Africa, when a person dies, they die either testate or intestate. This means that their assets and affairs will either be governed by the provisions of a valid Will (testate succession) or by the law of intestate succession (in the absence of a valid Will). Every testator has the freedom of testation, which allows them to choose who will benefit under their Will and to what extent. Further, the testator can give direction to the executor on how the affairs of the estate are to be managed.   Therefore, by creating and signing a Will, you can give clear direction to the executor to administer your estate according to your wishes.  Without a valid Will, the executor must rely on the direction given by Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 (“the Intestate Succession Act”).

Why do you need a Will?

The provisions of the Intestate Succession Act need not be considered bad or deficient, however, because the Intestate Succession Act is a law of general application focusing on blood relation, it is seldom in line with your wishes. There are then, several benefits from preventing the law of intestate succession from applying, some of which are briefly listed below: –

The first benefit is that a Will allows you can choose who shall benefit from your estate. It gives you the ability to provide for your loved ones in a way which is tailored to your circumstances. If the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act apply only members of your family (blood relation or by marriage) can benefit from your estate. Further, the Intestate Succession Act sets out the circumstances under which certain family members can benefit.

The second benefit is that by choosing who is to benefit from your estate you can leverage beneficial estate duty and tax provisions available to you.

The third benefit is that you can give direction on who should be the guardians of any minor children and who the executor of your estate should be (for more information on Galileo as your executors please follow this link). This will speed up the administration of the estate and ensure that your children are taken care of by the people you trust.

The fourth benefit is that you can make provision for the possibility of a minor being the beneficiary of your estate. This is done by directing that a testamentary trust is to be created in such circumstances, GalileoWills includes this automatically. In the absence of any direction, in a Will or otherwise, that minor’s inheritance is held in the publicly administered Guardian’s Fund until they reach the age of majority (currently 18 years old).

The fifth benefit from having a Will is to avoid the unintended or unwanted consequences which may result from the Intestate Succession Act being applied. Depending on the circumstances this may result in added stress to your loved ones during a time of grief. Further the persons who can benefit from your estate is limited to blood relatives, a life partner for an example will not be able to inherit.  The provisions of the Intestate Succession Act also set out under what circumstances certain family members may inherit. For an example if you are survived by your spouse and children, your estate will be split between surviving spouse and your children.[1] This will happen even if it makes better economical sense that the surviving spouse inherits the whole estate.

When do you need to get a Will?

By having a Will, you remove the administrative burden which would otherwise fall on your loved ones. You can give clear direction on how your estate is to devolve regardless of the value of the assets in your estate. As a result, we recommend that if you are a South African citizen or tax resident or own assets in South Africa you should have a Will. There are, however, certain circumstances which make having a Will more important than the general answer above. These are: – 1. Getting married / entering a civil union or life partnership, 2. Purchasing immovable property (e.g.: a flat or house), 3. At the birth of a child or if you have children, 4. If your estate has a positive net worth, 5. If there is a family member or another person finically dependent on you.

How does GalileoWills make it easy to prepare a Will?

Even though a Will is an important document, the preparation and signing of one is often left undone in today’s fast paced world. GalileoWills provides an easy, time efficient and professional platform through which you can complete the drafting of your Will within 15 minutes (just by following the three easy steps). This can even be done from the comfort of your own couch. A small investment of time and money now will give you the benefits outlined above and the peace of mind that you have made provision for your loved ones.

[1] The exact manner and portions are determined by the application of the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act.