Five questions about your Will you may be afraid to ask

By Janice Roberts
Alex Simeonides

We know we should have one, but why do so many of us avoid drawing up a Will?

Between trying to earn a living, getting the grocery shopping done and squeezing in a gym workout, many of us avoid thinking about the inevitable – what would happen to our ‘stuff’ if we die? This may be why we avoid making sure we have an updated and valid Will in place, despite it possibly being the most important document in our estate planning.

“People have this impression that drafting your Will is costly, time-consuming and basically just a hack,” says CEO of Capital Legacy, Alex Simeonides. “But if you follow a few basic guidelines, it’s far easier than you think and can save your family time and money as well as make sure your hard-earned money lands up with the people you want it to end up with.”
Simeonides shared the five questions he gets asked most often with us.

Why do I need a will?

This legal document outlines more than just who inherits the family heirlooms – it includes assets such as cars, houses, pension pay-outs and investments. If you die without a Will, you die ‘intestate’ and your possessions are distributed by the State, which could possibly tie your estate up in red tape for months, if not years. There’s also no guarantee that your beneficiaries will get the funds when they need them – your kids’ school fees may not be paid, or your spouse may not be able to make the bond repayments on the house to keep a roof over their heads. Bottom line: dying without a Will means possibly leaving your loved ones high and dry.

Who should I appoint as my executor?

The person named in the Will to administer your estate is called the executor. In short, they’re there to make sure your wishes are honoured. While many people choose a family member or trusted friend for the job, it’s important to make sure they’re really up to the task, or it may cause delays. Winding up an estate is time-consuming and requires a degree of financial and legal know-how so it’s definitely worth considering appointing an independent person who may settle your affairs quickly and affordably. Make sure the wording of your Will empowers your executor to help settle bills and take care of other administrative tasks, no matter how big or small, such as managing any rental properties, notifying municipalities and tax authorities and even paying your rates and taxes.

What fees or costs will my family have to cover when I die?

Most people are familiar with funeral insurance, which pays out to help cover the costs of a funeral. But there are a range of other fees that need to be paid when you die. For starters: Executor Fees, Testamentary Trust Fees, Conveyance Attorney Fees, and Non-Estate Asset Fees. These can pile up and will need to be paid either out of your estate or your family will have to cough up the cash. Even simple estates must cover taxes and death duties. Ask your advisor for a list of fees your family can expect to pay when your estate is being executed.

Where should I keep my Will?

Your executor is going to need your original Will to wind up your estate, so it’s important to keep it safe and accessible for when you die. Keeping it under lock and key doesn’t help if you’re the only one who knows the combination to the padlock. Consider keeping the original in a water- and fire-proof box as well as storing signed copies with your executor or an independent party. A ‘What To Do When I Die’ file can contain instructions to your family on who to contact and where to find important documents should you pass away unexpectantly.

Will a Will stop family members from fighting over my possessions after I die?

You only have to look at the court rolls to see how many Wills get contested after someone dies, the most recent cases being the ones that are being tried in the Constitutional Court. When a Will isn’t clearly drafted, it opens it up for contestation in court by any beneficiary who may feel they have been unfairly treated by it. Of course, it’s up to you to whom you want to leave your assets, but make sure there aren’t administrative reasons your family members can contest the Will – such as that it wasn’t properly witnessed, you weren’t of sound mind when you signed it or there was possible coercion by another beneficiary. Making sure your Will is properly drafted by a professional and is valid is one of the best ways you can prevent your family fighting over your possessions after your death.

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