Busting 10 Myths about Wills

image-192Life is too busy to worry about Death. But Death has this annoying habit of disregarding Life and pitching up at the most inopportune moment. While cheating Death may prove difficult, we can smooth the process somewhat by making sure that we have drafted a Will. An alarming number of people do not have Wills. Here are some of the common excuses for not having a Will. Busted!

Myth 1: Drafting a Will is expensive

In reality: You really don’t need to finance your over-priced attorney’s Porsche to finalise a Last Will and Testament. There are many easy and cost-efficient ways of drafting your Will. Your bank or insurance adviser will be able to help you at a nominal cost. Some financial advisers are even willing to draft one for free. Or you can buy a Will Template such as the one on Agreements Online.

Myth 2: I’m married. If I die everything will go to my spouse anyway. So why should I bother to draft a Will?

In reality: If you die without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. Under South African law, a formula applies for how assets are distributed from deceased estates without a Will. This distribution includes your children and spouse, and can also include other family members under certain circumstances. Also, you need to consider what would happen to your estate if your spouse dies in the same calamity, eg a car accident.

Myth 3: I don’t own any assets, so I don’t need a Will.

In reality: The law requires all deceased estates to be properly administered, so even if you don’t think your estate is worth much, you should make a Will. Also remember that if you die there may be an insurance payout paid into your estate, eg. through an insurance policy your employer may have that you may not even know about.

Myth 4: I won’t be around – it’s not my problem!

In reality: Your loved-ones are the ones who need to sort out your affairs. It’s your estate, and your responsibility to ensure that your affairs are in order. By taking the time to make a Will you can save your next of kin a lot of uncertainty, stress and expense.

Myth 5: Things change too often in my life for me to finalise a Will.

In reality: It is possible to draft a Will in a flexible way, taking various eventualities into account. And if your life truly is that unpredictable, then you can review your Will regularly, and change it as your circumstances change.

Myth 6: I drafted a Will years ago, so I don’t need to worry about it.

In reality: Life events can affect your Will. This includes: entering into or ending a relationship; marriage; divorce; the birth of a child; the death of a spouse, partner, child or beneficiary. You should review your Will regularly (eg. annually, or every 2 to 3 years) and make sure to update it when things in your life change.

Myth 7: I’ll just leave a note for my family telling them what to do with my stuff.

In reality: There are strict legal provisions involved in drafting a Will. A letter instructing your family what to do will not meet the legal requirements and is unlikely to be enforceable.

Myth 8: I’m young still. I’ll think about my Will when I grow “old”.

In reality: Life isn’t predictable, and “old-age” isn’t guaranteed. From accidents to illnesses to an array of medical complications, anyone can find themselves knocking at Death’s door at any time.

Myth 9: I don’t have kids, so I don’t need to worry about a Will.

In reality: When you die, your estate has to be administered, and your assets need to be distributed. Regardless whether you have a spouse, partner or kids. By drafting a Will you can appoint your executor and decide who gets your assets, alleviating the stress and frustration on your parents, siblings or loved-ones.

Myth 10: My partner and I haven’t agreed on a guardian for our kids, so the Will can wait until we’ve reached agreement.

In reality: There are many other important issues in your Last Will and Testament, including the appointment of an executor, the naming of heirs, establishing a testamentary trust and distribution of assets to beneficiaries. These important issues cannot wait while you discuss, argue, debate, wheedle, bargain and generally thrash out the guardianship issue with your spouse. And once you do finally reach agreement, you can update your Will with the information.

And if this article hasn’t persuaded you of the importance of drafting your will, then read our next instalment on the 10 Consequences of Dying Without a Will. Seriously. Get a Will.

Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.