Dad, mom! Is your will drawn up and updated?
Do you have a will? Is it updated? Ensure your children inherit more than debt when you pass on suddenly. Here's how.
If you don’t leave a will, portions might go to individuals whom you have not chosen. (iStock)

Who would see to your children’s needs if you were no longer around to do it? It’s something most of us would rather not even think about, but something that we all need to do. Having a will in place allows you to choose your heirs, what they each stand to inherit, your children’s guardian, and your executor and trustees.

What happens happens if you die without a will?

If you die intestate, your estate is split according to a fixed formula. This is the rule of intestate succession, and it means that if you don’t leave a will, portions might go to individuals whom you have not chosen. The following happen automatically:

Survived by a spouse and no descendants:

Your spouse inherits everything.

Survived by descendants but not by a spouse:

Your descendants inherit everything.

Survived by a spouse and descendants:

Your spouse inherits R125 000 or a "child’s portion" of the estate. Your children will inherit the remainder. A child’s portion is calculated by adding up all the children and the spouse and dividing the estate by the sum total. If a child’s portion is smaller than R125 000 then the spouse gets a minimum of R125 000 with the remainder being divided equally among the children.

No spouse or descendants, but both your parents are alive:

Your parents inherit your estate in equal shares.

No spouse, no descendants, but survived by one parent, while the deceased parent left descendants:

The surviving parent inherits one half of your estate and the descendants of the deceased parent inherit the other half.

No spouse, no descendants, but survived by one parent, while the deceased parent left no descendants:

The surviving parent inherits all.

No spouse, no descendants, no surviving parents but both your parents left descendants:

The estate is split in two. Half goes to your mother’s descendants and half to your father’s descendants.

No spouse or descendants, no surviving parents but one of your parents left descendants:

The descendants of your one parent inherit your entire estate.

No spouse, no descendants, no surviving parents and no descendants of your parents:

Your nearest blood relative inherits your entire estate.

No relatives at all:

The government receives your estate.

How do I get a will?

  • Anyone who is over the age of 16 and mentally sound can draft a will.
  • It can cost anywhere between R250 and R1,000.
  • You can ask your bank or an attorney to draw up your will.
  • The person who drafts it, together with the witnesses, are generally excluded from benefiting from it so it’s better to get third parties who are not your heirs to draft and witness it.
  • Among the things to consider when drafting it are who you can trust to look after your children and whether they know that they are the appointed guardian; who you should choose as your executor; and whether you need to set up a testamentary trust.

Making your will bullet-proof

  • Make sure that your will is signed correctly. You need to sign each page of the will as well as at the end.
  • Make sure the will is witnessed. The will needs to be signed by you in the presence of two competent witnesses. They must then sign at the end of the will. The witnesses must be older than 14 and able to give evidence in court.
  • If you forget to change your will after a divorce, you’re allowed a 3-month period of grace in which to alter it. Should you pass away during this period, the courts will assume that you did not intend leaving your assets to your ex-spouse.

Do you have a will and testament and is it updated? Have you experienced hardships because of a nearest passing away without a will? Tell us your story. 

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Read more:

Update your will or you may as well still be married to your ex, and other surprising ways divorce can affect your legacy

WILLS: What you need to know

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