Your loved ones are going to have enough on their plates when you die without also having to worry about finances, or fighting with each other over your worldly goods. Here’s what you need to do right now to avoid that. Make a will, now! Why? If you die without a will, you die “intestate”, which means you have no say at all in:
1. Who is appointed as executor of your estate. Rather choose a competent professional to protect your heirs’ interests independently and quickly; and
2. Who will inherit what. Without a valid will, the law prescribes who benefits and who doesn’t, and that is a recipe for hardship – for example your spouse could be left trying to survive on only a “child’s share” rather than inheriting your whole estate; and
3. How much tax your estate will pay. You might for example be able to reduce estate duty, capital gains tax etc with a correctly structured estate plan.
The Court’s warning – Use a Professional!
“It is a never-ending source of amazement that so many people rely on untrained advisors when preparing their wills, one of the most important documents they are ever likely to sign.” Those opening remarks by a Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal highlight yet again the downside of not seeking professional help.
The facts were that a defective will (its terms were unclear, technical terms were incorrectly used, and it didn’t comply with statutory formalities) caused 3 years of bitter family dispute. The deceased’s widow contended that everything had been left to her, but his children from a prior marriage challenged the will’s validity, and eventually succeeded in having the High Court set it aside as being “void for vagueness”. Then on appeal (and by this stage we are talking substantial legal costs, quite apart from all the stress and strain on the parties) the SCA reversed the High Court’s decision and upheld the will.
You won’t be around to witness the distress that ‘shoddy drafting’ and ‘incompetent advice’ will cause your loved ones, but you can avoid it by getting expert assistance upfront!
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