Regardless of if you’re a small business entrepreneur or a medium-sized business owner, planning for a family, or just married, a Will is one of the most crucial documents you’ll ever sign.
A will is a legal statement that details who will inherit your assets after your death. This document only comes into force when you pass away. In South Africa, you’re mostly free to distribute your assets as you wish, respecting the public interest and excluding certain illegal conditions.
One area where this freedom is restricted is your pension fund. According to the Pension Funds Act, death benefits from your pension, provident, preservation, or retirement annuity funds can’t be included in your will. However, you can specify that if these funds go to your minor children, they should be kept in a trust instead of being paid directly to a guardian.
Assets held in a trust can’t be included in your will. They belong to the trust, not to you, and aren’t part of your estate. If you exclude your spouse from your will, they can still claim maintenance under the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act, ensuring they can maintain their lifestyle.
Remember, when drafting a will, it needs to be signed in ink by you, the testator, in front of two eligible witnesses. They should be over the age of fourteen and able to testify in court. If your will is multi-paged, sign every page, with witnesses only needing to sign the last page.
One critical aspect to consider when drafting your will is the appointment of an Executor. This person will carry out your wishes when you pass away and ensure the proper administration of your estate.
Choosing an executor can be challenging. This person is responsible for reporting your estate to the Master of the High Court, closing all your accounts, settling all expenses and debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs as per your will. It’s a role that requires logic, not emotion, which might make the choice of a spouse or child complicated.
When choosing your executor, consider the following traits:
Trustworthy and Organised: They should act in your estate’s best interest, dealing with your personal and financial matters. They need to be organised, capable of handling family dynamics, compiling documents, and meeting deadlines.
Knowledgeable: The Master of the High Court makes the final Executor appointment. If the person you’ve chosen lacks the necessary skills and knowledge, a professional like an attorney, accountant, or fiduciary specialist might assist them. If your estate is complex, consider appointing a professional from the beginning.
Communicative and Skilled Socially: The Executor maintains relationships with multiple parties. Choose someone who can communicate effectively with your family, beneficiaries, and other parties.
Choosing the right Executor can save your estate significant costs in the future and ensure efficient administration. For the best results, consider having your will professionally drafted. This will help navigate any restrictions and ensure your family’s best outcome.
By Ariza Vermeulen | Senior Associate, FPSA®