We are all going to meet our unfortunate death however, knowing that you have planned your life and assets
after death would be conciliatory to your loved ones. It is for this reason that one must plan on how their
estate should devolve when they are deceased.
A Will is a written document that sets out the wishes of a person as to how their estate should be
administered and distributed when they are deceased. The Wills Act 7 of 1953 (“the Act”) provides for what
constitutes a valid will. Section 4 of the Act states that any person of 16 years and older has the capacity to
make a Will. The testator (male) or testatrix (female) must have the ability to understand the nature and
effect of a Will.
Testate succession occurs when a testator/testatrix dies and leaves a valid Will. As a result, the deceased’s
estate will be administered in accordance with their Will. A testator/testatrix may amend a Will at any time
before their death and any amendments thereof shall form part of a Will.
It is very important to seek legal assistance from an appropriate professional such as an attorney,
accountant, bank and insurance companies to assist with drafting and executing a valid Will. ENSafrica Pro
Bono office provides this service to qualifying persons free of charge.
Validity of a Will
The Wills Act provides the statutory requirement and formalities of a valid Will which includes the following
a) A Will must be in writing.
b) It must be signed on each page by a testator/testatrix together and in the presence of two or
more competent witnesses.
c) If the testator/testatrix cannot sign a Will,
i. he/she may sign by making a mark or thumb print together and in the presence of a
Commissioner of Oaths and two witnesses,
ii. someone may sign a Will on behalf of the testator/testatrix together and in the presence of
a Commissioner of Oath and two witnesses, and
iii. a Commissioner of Oath must further attach a certificate which certifies that a Will belongs
to a testator/testatrix and that the marking is that of the testator/testatrix.
d) A competent witness must be 14 years of age or older and be able to give evidence in a court of
law. The identity of each witness may be provided on the last page of a Will.
e) A Will must have a date of execution on the last page.
Beneficiary in a Will
A beneficiary or an heir is a natural person or juristic person who will inherit from the deceased’s estate upon
the death of the testator/testatrix as provided in the will.
The following persons have the capacity to inherit and may be nominated as beneficiaries in a Will;
a) A minor person: who is under the age of 18 years. A legal guardian is appointed by a court to care
for a minor and their bequeathed interest through the Master of the High Court.
b) Anyone above the age of 18 years
c) An unborn child: the child must be born alive.
d) Person of unsound mind: a curator-bonis may be appointed by a court to administer the bequeathed
estate on the beneficiary’s behalf.
e) An insolvent person: their bequeathed property will be administered by a trustee for the benefit of
f) Juristic persons: a private company or non-profit organisation.
It is important to prepare a valid Will which represent the last wishes of a testator/testatrix. For that reason, a
testator/testatrix must ensure that their Wills are updated regularly, especially where there are change of
circumstances in their lives (i.e marriage, divorce, change of ownership of properties or changes of
Master of the High Court only accepts original Wills, and not copies. It is very important that an original valid
Will should be kept in a safe place known by a trusted person and this could be your trusted relative, pastor,