How to draft a will

How to go about drafting a will

Posted  February 25, 2013

Whether you are Warren Buffet or Barely Making Ends Meet, if you own any assets you need a will. A will is the voice that will speak for you after your death and stipulate how you want your assets distributed. For many people planning for their own death can be unpleasant and drawing up a will a daunting task. To help shed some light on the matter we spoke to the experts at 1Life for their advice on drawing up a will. 

Without a will your assets might not be divided according to your wishes but rather in accordance with the rules of the Intestate Succession Act.

This means that there is a chance that people you do not want to inherit from you will do just that, while those you believe to be your rightful heirs might end up with nothing. Furthermore, not having a will might cause delays in the wrapping up of your estate and incur additional costs.

  • When drafting your will you can either make use of one of the many free will templates available online or you can seek the advice of a specialist, for example your bank, lawyer or personal financial planner. If you are concerned about tax implications a professional will be able to help you ensure that any taxes you might have to pay, for example estate tax and Capital Gains tax, are minimised.
  • You will need to appoint an executor in your will. This is the person that is responsible for ensuring that your estate is divided according to the terms of your will. You can appoint anybody as the executor of your estate but ensure that he or she is willing to act as your executor, is honest and trustworthy and has some understanding of financial matters. You also need to consider the age of a potential executor and whether or not they will outlive you.
  • Taking the above points into consideration, your executor could be your spouse, a younger sibling or a niece or nephew. You could also appoint a professional as the executor of your estate, for example a lawyer, accountant or your bank. If you do not appoint an executor the state will appoint one for you. This is not ideal as he/she might not be the person you would choose to execute your will.
  • If any of the beneficiaries of your estate are underage or mentally handicapped you will need to set up a trust and nominate a trustee to administer their inheritance on their behalf and pay their education and living expenses etc. You might also want to set up a trust and stipulate that the trustee only pay their inheritance to them when they reach a certain age.

When choosing a trustee apply the same guidelines used when choosing an executor.

  • If you own a life insurance policy remember to stipulate the beneficiaries of the policy. If a policy does not have any beneficiaries the benefit amount will be paid into the estate of the deceased. This means that it could take years for your family to receive the pay-out.
  • Last but not least do not forget to keep your will updated! For example, you might need to change the terms of your will in case of divorce, marriage, the birth of a new child or the purchase or sale of a house.

There can be no doubt that a valid and carefully thought out will is essential to protect both your interests and those of your heirs. Start planning your will today. Download your free will template from the 1Life website.

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