During National Wills Week from September 11 to 15, 2017, attorneys participating in the National Wills Week initiative will offer free services to members of the public in drafting of wills.
According to Barbara Whittle, the communications manager of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), it is advisable for people those recently widowed or divorced to do so. She says new homeowners as well those in ‘vat-en-sit’ arrangements must ensure they have a legally sound will.
She says it is important to do so to ensure there are no competing claims on the drafter’s estate when they pass away.
“By ensuring that you have a valid will, you as the testator, can protect the interests of your loved ones and ensure that there is no delay in settling your estate after your death. It also ensures that your executor will act according to your wishes as set out in your will.
“A valid will allows you to state who should inherit your assets and property, to appoint an executor of your choice for your estate and also a guardian for your minor children,” said Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) co-chairpersons David Bekker and Walid Brown.
The society has emphasised that only practising attorneys be approached when seeking drafting of wills, as they have the necessary knowledge and expertise to ensure that your will is valid by complying with all the legal requirements in the Wills Act and also that it complies with testator’s wishes.
It says an attorney can also advise clients on any problem that may arise with the will and assist then executor. They say this necessitated by a common occurrence, where a will is not valid because the person who drafts it does not have the necessary legal knowledge to ensure that all the legal requirements of the Wills Act are met.
Dependencies include the fact that the will must be in writing, it must be signed by the testator in the presence of at least two competent witnesses and also signed by the witnesses.
In the event that one passes away without a will, or what is known as intestate, assets will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. These provisions are generally fair and ensure that possessions are transferred to the spouse and children, and where applicable, to siblings, parents, and if required, then to the extended family in terms of degrees of relationships.
According to the society, intestate status has a high risk of the deceased assets not be left to the person of their choice, it can take a longer time to have an executor appointed; he executor who is appointed may be somebody you the deceased would have preferred; there could be extra and unnecessary costs; probable unhappiness and conflict among family members as there are is no clear instructions on how to distribute your assets.
Those interested in utilising this free service can contact Law Society of the Northern Provinces (Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West); the Cape Law Society (Western, Eastern and Northern Cape); the Free State Law Society and KwaZulu-Natal Law Society. They will have a list of attorneys offering the free will drafting service.