A will is a written document which sets out a person’s instructions on what should be done with their belongings after their death. It is therefore a useful legal tool to ensure that your wishes are carried out in relation to the distribution of your assets after your death. You may draft a will to specify what should be done with your moveable property (clothing, jewellery, furniture, cars etcetera) and immovable property (a stand, house or land) after your death.
A person who is over the age of sixteen may have a will. It is important to have a will where you have accumulated a number of assets during your lifetime or where you have valuable assets. It is also especially important for divorced individuals and for people who have two or more marriages or relationships, to avoid family disputes regarding what should be done with a person’s assets after death.
If you do not have a will, your assets will not be distributed in accordance with your wishes and the law will decide for you who gets your property after your death. If you do not have a will, your estate will not be distributed in accordance with your own wishes but in terms of the Intestate Succession Act. This is a piece of legislation that directs what must happen to a person’s estate after their death in a situation where they do not have a will.
In order for a will to be valid, there are certain formalities that must be complied with. It is therefore important to obtain proper legal advice to ensure that your will complies with all the necessary legal requirements as set out in the Wills Act. Once you have drafted your will, it is important to store it in a safe, dry place. If it is drafted by an attorney, your attorney may store your will for you.
Given that it is wills week, a number of institutions will be assisting individuals to draft their wills. The Law Society has posted on its website a number of firms who will be assisting individuals to draft their wills during this week. The ENS pro bono office situated at office number 1 Sankopano Centre corner 12th Avenue and Reverend Sam Buti street Alexandra will also be assisting individuals who qualify for pro bono legal assistance to draft their wills.