All you need to know about drawing up a will, and what it should include.
Why you need a will
If you don’t have a will, when you die, your assets will be dealt with in terms of the law of intestate succession, which means your assets might not go to the people you intended. Without a proper will, it’s not guaranteed your children will receive anything from your estate when you pass away.
Who needs a will?
Every adult needs a will, and it’s especially important for parents to have one so they can appoint a guardian if something happens to both of them. Many parents don’t realise that if they don’t properly state their children’s legal guardian in the will, the courts may choose someone to take care of them – and it might be Aunt Jane who is financially secure but not a very nice person. The expectation is usually that the spouse will take care of the children, however the spouse could die at the same time or within close proximity, which is why it’s essential to appoint a legal guardian for your children.
Regardless of your assets, you still need a will. A will is not just about money or possessions – it can contain special requests that you want adhered to when you die, for example, your burial, and who will take care of your pets.
How to draw up a will
- Drawing up a will can be as easy as downloading basic templates from the internet or going through an online will-drafting process. In more complex cases (such as when there are ex-spouses/partners, children from previous marriages, disabled dependents, a special needs trust or any other specific wishes to be implemented), it is preferable to have a practising attorney or reputable bank draw up the will. This ensures the wishes of the testator (the person who has written and executed a last will and testament to take effect at the time of their death) are set out correctly, and that the will complies with all the legal requirements.
- Appoint a good executor. This is the person or company who will ensure your assets go to the places and people you want them to. Remember, there is usually an executor fee.
- Make sure all the gifts you would like to leave to beneficiaries are detailed, and the beneficiary is clearly stated, especially when family members could have the same name.
- Use clear and succinct language – a will doesn’t need to be written in legal jargon.
- You need to appoint two witnesses to sign off the will (in your presence and in the presence of each other), and this cannot be any of the beneficiaries listed in the will.
- Date the will, so it’s clear when it was compiled, and there can be no arguments regarding earlier versions of the will.
- Update your will regularly. The birth of a child or change of marital status is usually neglected, and not removing people you no longer want in your will or forgetting to add new people will cause issues. As a rule of thumb, reviewing your will every year is advisable.
- It may seem obvious, but ensure that your loved ones know where to locate your will.
For more information on drawing up a will, getting started on your kids’ university savings fund or life insurance, contact Hero Life.