Let’s be honest, making a will isn’t exactly the world’s most exciting thought. In fact, it could possibly be the world’s least exciting one. Most of us will just never get around to doing it. Lawyer BARRY JESSOP from Claremont, Cape Town, argues that this is SO not a good idea…
SO BARRY, PERSUADE US!
‘No matter how we live, eat, exercise, botox, pray, meditate or simply ignore death, it’s going to happen to us. And after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, we’ll leave behind us bereft family and friends, plus ‘stuff’ (some of us, of course, leave more ‘stuff’ than others). Dealing with a recently departed person’s estate can be relatively simple or very challenging, depending upon the thought and preparation they’ve put into their inevitable demise.’
WELL, THAT WAS FUN. HOW ABOUT SOME POSITIVES BEFORE WE DIG OUR HEADS FURTHER INTO THE SAND? GIVE US YOUR TOP FIVE INCENTIVES…
- You can ensure that someone you trust winds up your estate.
- If you have children under 18, you can nominate trustees and guardians to look after them and administer your assets until they’re capable of doing so themselves (NB: otherwise the state steps in, which is definitely not what you want).
- You decide who gets your assets! This enables you to make adequate provision for your dependants (and you can impose conditions on bequests to protect beneficiaries or enhance their lives (eg, money bequeathed to be used for educational purposes only). This will (hopefully) reduce conflicts and disagreements among your family and heirs, and prevent significant unfairness and upheaval in a family’s life.
- You can leave specific items or sums of money to specific people, charities or causes.
- You can minimise taxes and estate duty.’
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IT TO COST?
‘Anywhere between nothing and plenty, depending on who you see. Ask upfront about cost: if you make the attorney executor or co-executor, he/she may agree to waive or reduce the fee. Also, each year (usually in September) the Cape Law Society joins forces with National Wills Week, during which some legal firms do wills for free.’
HOW ABOUT USING AN OFF-THE-SHELF WILL? AND WHAT’S THIS ABOUT OUR HOUSE HAVING TO BE SOLD?
‘NO, NO, NO! These are often poorly drafted and don’t cater for individual needs. The formalities around signing a will are also crucial, so pay a bit and have it done properly. A bad will made without advice from professionals is often worse than no will at all. Problems that can arise include: leaving money to young adults who waste it or fall prey to crooks; giving money to charities that no longer exist without specifying alternatives; leaving a home to a son or daughter without making provision for the surviving spouse to be accommodated there (or elsewhere); leaving your estate to your ex-spouse, not your current one; inadvertently making no provision for adopted children; not specifying that smaller bequests are only to be made if your estate has the cash, resulting in a house or other major asset having to be sold to fund them.’
SO MAYBE YOU’VE GOT US INTERESTED, BARRY. WHAT DO WE DO NEXT?
‘Ask around for recommendations of a good estates lawyer. Or contact the Cape Law Society and ask them for a recommendation. Then just make an appointment – one trick is to make it a few months in advance so you feel less daunted by the prospect.
Then make sure you keep the appointment! Making a will can greatly assist those you leave behind and alleviate unnecessary financial hardship. It’s a relatively quick act whose benefits last way beyond the time and expense that the process incurs.
Quite simply, making a will is an act of caring.’
THANKS BARRY, WE GOTCHA!