Feb 2016 1st Edition

All you need to know about a will

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
A way of making sure that loved ones are taken care of when death strikes is drawing up a will.

A will, also known as a testament, is a document in which a person sets out what must happen to their estate when they die. 

You can nominate a person or persons, known as executors, who should administer your estate on your death.

The person who makes a will is known as the testator (male) or a  testatrix when referring to female.

“Explaining [a will] in laymen’s terms it can be called a wish list of a person when they die.”

“A will is where a person explains how they want their assets managed or distributed. If you had assets who would you want to benefit from your assets”, said Cecilia Mphela Assistant Master from the Master of the High Court of South Africa in the Gauteng Division which form part of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

The requirements for a valid will

According to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development since 1 January 1954 a will must be in writing. It can be written by hand, typed, or printed.

The testator or testatrix must sign the will at the end.

The signature of the testator or testatrix must be made in the presence of two or more competent witnesses.

If the will consists of more than one page, each page other than the page on which it ends must be signed by the testator or testatrix or by such other person anywhere on the page.

Although the testator or testatrix must sign all the pages of the will it is only the page on which the will ends, that needs to be signed at the end of the will.

A commissioner of oaths must certify that they are satisfied with the identity of the testator/testatrix and that the will so signed is the will of the testator/testatrix.

The commissioner of oaths must also sign each page of the will, anywhere on the page.

Appointing an executor

Mphela said when drafting a will an opportunity arises to appoint an executor.

“This is a person who will be administering and distributing assets to beneficiaries.”

A person’s estate consists of all their assets belongings, property and liabilities or debts which they had as at date of death. 

To administer an estate means to collect or take control of all the assets of the deceased, to pay the debts which the deceased left at date of death, and then to pay the balance for distribution to the rightful heirs of the deceased as determined in the will.

Mphela says when drawing up a will one must be at least 16-years of mentally sound mind and must have two witnesses who are 14-years or older who can testify in a court of law.

“Witnesses need not go through your will. You can draft your own will or have someone draft it for you.”

She added that financial advisors, attorneys, and banks can advice on how to draft a will.

 Mphela said that most people prefer using the banks to assist them in drawing up a will, which leads to the bank being the executor of the wills, they have drafted.

“In such instances, the banks will contact the beneficiaries about the will. It is always advisable that people inform their beneficiary that they have a will.”

For enquiries/customer care:
chiefmaster@justice.gov.za ,
Tel: 012 406 4805  Fax: 086 5444 893


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