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Wills help avoid family feuds

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

By drawing up a will, you get to decide who gets your belongings and cash after your death.

Awill is a legal document that describes what should happen to a person’s belongings and money when they die.  

“A will ensures that your belongings are divided among your chosen beneficiaries. When you have a will, you avoid family conflicts that might arise after death,” says Advocate Refilwe Morake from the Master of the High Court.

He warns that should you pass away without having drafted a will, your estate (all your money and property) will be intestate, meaning your assets might not go to your chosen beneficiaries. Instead, they will be divided among your surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings, according to a set formula.

A will should list all your assets – such as houses, furniture and cars, and your liabilities, which is your debt. It should give the name of an executor, who will gather up all your assets and ensure they are distributed according to your will.

“Anyone who is above the age of 16 may make a will, unless they are incapable of appreciating the consequences of their actions,” explains Morake.

He says a will can be drawn up at a lawyer’s offices, a bank or a trust company and may be kept with them for a fee, or at home.

The last will to be drawn up is the one that is considered to be valid. Morake warns that should you update your will, the latest version must state that all previous wills are cancelled. 

He adds that it is important to update your will as soon as there are import changes in your life, such as a marriage or divorce.

“Once there is a divorce decree, you must change your will within three months. If you die three months after the divorce without changing your will, then the court will assume that you were happy with your last will and divide your assets according to that will,” he says.

To learn more about drawing up a will, contact the Department of Justice at 012 315 1111/ 1004/ 1002. Alternatively, visit any Master of the High Court office.