If you don’t have a valid will, you will have no control over who inherits your assets when you die. This might lead to people inheriting your money or assets, even if you didn’t want them to.
If a person dies without making a will, the assets that they owned will be distributed in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, to the people who must rightfully inherit them.
The Act sets out rules of how the estate must be distributed. It goes to close relatives first, in a specific order:
• If you are survived by only a spouse, the spouse will inherit the entire estate.
• If you don’t have a spouse and are only survived by your children, they will inherit the estate in equal shares.
• If you are survived by a spouse and children, the spouse will receive a child’s share or R250 000, whichever is greater, and the children share the balance. For example, if the estate is worth R2 million and the deceased is survived by a spouse and three children, a child’s share amounts is R500 000. The child’s share is calculated by dividing the value by four.
• If you have no spouse or children, but both your parents are alive, they will inherit the estate in equal shares. If one parent is dead, but left siblings, the surviving parent will inherit half of the estate and the deceased parent’s descendants will receive the other half.
• If both of the deceased’s parents have died, but they left descendants, the estate is split into equal parts.
• If the deceased does not leave a spouse, descendants, parents or parents’ descendants, the nearest blood relation will inherit the entire estate.
• Finally, if the deceased is not survived by any relative, the State will inherit the proceeds of the estate.
In addition to the above, a child born out of wedlock can inherit from both blood relations; and an adopted child is deemed as a descendant of his adoptive parent or parents.
When is a will valid?
A will is only valid when made by a person 16 years or older, and must meet the following requirements:
• It must be in writing, and your signature must appear on every page and at the end.
• It must be signed in the presence of two or more competent witnesses. Any person 14 years and above can be a witness. An heir can’t be a witness.
• You must include full details of your assets and who you want to leave them to, including their names and details.
• You must nominate a person to manage your estate (the executer). This person can’t be an heir.
• You must state what should happen to a minor beneficiary’s inheritance.
• If you are the sole guardian of a minor child, indicate who should be appointed as the child’s guardian.
• You must ensure the original signed will is kept safe, because a copy is not valid.
Information supplied by the Office of the Ombud for Financial Services Providers as a member of the National Consumer Financial Education Committee.