Frequently asked questions about wills
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that contains the wishes of the testator regarding his or her assets and also guardianship regarding minor children. As it’s a legal document, there are certain legal formalities that must be complied with to be a valid will.
Why do I need a will?
A will is the voice of a person’s wishes once deceased. If you don’t have a valid will, the Intestate Succession Act will apply in the administration of your estate and the distribution of your assets will not necessarily devolve as you would have wished.
I already have a will, when do I need to update my will?
Your will needs to be updated regularly. Situations that require your will to be updated include circumstances where a family member named as a beneficiary or guardian in your will pass away; a new child is born; after a divorce or when new assets are acquired.
What is a single will?
A single will is where only one person is the testator or testatrix to a will.
What is a joint will?
A joint will is a single document that contains the wills of two or more persons. In most cases, a joint will is among two spouses who can outline their wishes should one of them die before the other and in particular what is to happen when both the parties die simultaneously.
What is a testamentary trust?
A testamentary trust is a trust contained in a will. It’s usually preferred where minor children are involved. A testamentary trust provides that the trustees have the powers and discretion to administer the bequests as made to the trust.
What is a living will?
A living will is a will providing for a person’s wishes and directions to medical practitioners when a person is in a certain state of mind where he or she is no longer able to give directions to end-of-life medical care. It is advised that a legal practitioner draft this document to ensure the legality thereof.
When should you draft a will?
According to the Wills Act Section 4, anyone who is 16 or older may draft a will. As long as the person is mentally capable of doing so and understands the nature and effect of the contents of the will. The drafting of a will is often a low priority – this is due to various subjective considerations by individuals. As a guideline, the opportune time to attend to a will, may be:
- When getting married or remarried it is important to draft a will in order to include your spouse as a beneficiary should this be the testator’s wish;
- When getting divorced it is important to update your will or draft a new will should the testator and or testatrix no longer wish for the previous spouse to be a beneficiary to his or her estate;
- When children are conceived, it is important to ensure that children are provided for when one or both parents die;
- Starting a business or expanding business interests;
- Acquiring assets.