For most people drawing up a will it is something that they say they will “eventually get around to it”. But even when they do decide to draw one up, it is often done without much research or knowledge.
As Jacinta Bassuday, Legal Manager of Standard Trust Limited says, “even a simple will needs to adhere to basic rules and omitting these, can invalidate the document.”
The basic rules of drawing up a will are:
• It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are 14 years of age or older and are of sound mind.
• Witnesses cannot be people who will benefit from the will.
• Every page must be signed directly under the last words on each page. If you don’t do this, someone could add something later without you knowing.
• Any changes you make to your will must be in the presence of witnesses.
• If any of these rules are broken, your will may be declared invalid or it may be contested.
Bassuday, says, “The cost of a will depends on its complexity. An attorney charges anything between R1 000 and R2 500 for a basic will. Banks offer this service for a much lower fee but will often require you to nominate them as executors. Once your will has been drawn up your executor should be given a copy and you should nominate another trusted person to keep a second copy.
Bassuday adds, “Writing the will is actually the easy part. The complexity and work comes into play when you die. If you have nominated a family member to execute your will, you need to ensure that they are up to the task. Even executing a simple will takes a lot of commitment and administration. You should never nominate an executor without telling them, as they may not accept, of be able to fulfil the role. The executor you choose should be made aware of the process of winding up an estate, so they can make an educated decision as to whether they are able to meet the requirements.”
A professional executor such as a bank or an attorney will charge around 3.5% plus VAT on the gross value of the estate to wind it up. If you feel your family members can handle the executorship themselves, you may not need to appoint a professional. You can also appoint a trusted friend or relative to be an executor in tandem with a professional executor or administrator.
To give you an idea of the process involved in winding up an estate here is a list of what will need to be done by your executor:
• The deceased’s estate must be reported to the Master’s office.
• If the estate has a value exceeding R250 000.00, they will need:
o The original will;
o A completed death notice form and a certified copy of the Death Certificate;
o If the deceased was married at the time of death, a certified copy of the Marriage Certificate and a declaration of marriage by the surviving spouse indicating how the deceased was married;
o Two completed Acceptance of Trust as Executor forms;
o A completed inventory list showing all the assets of the deceased;
o A certified copy of the Identity Document of the executor to be appointed;
o An undertaking and bond of security may be required.
• Once these documents have been fully completed, the Master will issue a Letter of Executorship to the executor. This letter will give the person the authority to act as executor of the deceased estate.
• If the estate has a value less than R250 000.00, the same documents set out above will be required except for the two completed Acceptance of Trust as Executor forms and the undertaking and bond of security.
• In addition to all of the above, the Master requires a list of the deceased’s creditors.
• There are a number of other duties that an executor has to complete, in addition to the above. If this looks daunting to you, then you can understand the need to consider the feelings of your executor. Take a day to organise and list all of your important financial documents. Make a list of assets, liabilities, properties, memberships, subscription services and important contact people like family members, employers, business partners, financial planners, and accountants. Once you have organised your documents drop a line to your executor and close family member to let them know where the documents are stored.