What do I do?
A will is an legal instruction instrument that describes exactly what should happen to a person’s assets after his/her death. It is one of the first documents that need to be produced when someone passes away, and thus a very important document to compile while you are still alive, says Wayne Lambert of Lambert Attorneys. ‘Having a will is your way to legally make sure that your estate is distributed exactly the way you wanted it,’ he says.
If someone passes away without having a will, the Law of Intestate Succession takes effect and the estate is then regulated by how the law says the property should be distributed. That means, the estate might be handled in a way that could be totally different to what you would have liked, Lambert says. While it is perfectly legal to draft your own will, Lambert advises to rather seek the help of an attorney or legal expert to ensure it is drafted correctly Either way, make sure that all the pages are signed by the testator (person making the will) and two witnesess.
‘It is important that the testator nominates a person as executor of his/her estate who they can trust and who is competent to handle the basics of administering a deceased estate,’ Lambert says. Nominating an executor is as simple as stating it in writing in your will. ‘Be specific in your will: name the executor and all beneficiaries including their full names, ID numbers. Also be clear on the description of assets to be distributed’ Once a will is drafted, it is very important that the testator makes his/her relatives aware that there is a will, and also where it is kept.
After someone has died
Upon a person’s death, one of the first things his/her relatives need to do is find out if the person had a will and where it is held. If there is no will, the person’s estate will be distributed according to the Law of Intestate Succession Irrespective if the person has a will or not, the value of the estate has to be determined. If it is valued under R250 000, the family needs to visit the deceased estates office at their nearest local Magistrate’s office. Here they will be required to submit a number of documents such as the deceased’s ID and Death Certificate to get the estate distribution process started. If their loved’s estate is valued at more than R250 000, the family would have to approach the Master of the High Court to submit the estate details.
Even where the deceased person had more debt than assets a Masters Representative or Executor will need to be appointed to administer the estate. When nominating your Executor, remember that if the executor is not directly related to the testator, it is required that a Bond of Security is obtained which adds cost to the distribution of one’s estate.This is a type of insurance that protects the estate against any misappropriation by the executor, but can also be excluded if stated in the will. Lambert says the deceased estate can take between six months and up to five years to be finalised. ‘Having a will gives both the testator and his/her relatives peace of mind,’ says Lambert, adding that everybody should have a will – regardless of the size of your estate.