Why should you have a valid Will?
The results of leaving your loved ones behind without a valid Will can be catastrophic. Your Last Will & Testament is a vital document that ensures the following:
Your last wishes will be delivered upon
Your bequests are binding and not dictated to by intestate succession
Your children’s inheritances avoid the governmental "Guardian Fund" and are preserved in their own trust for their sole benefit
Inheritances are precluded from subsequent marital contracts
The appointment of capable, professional and accountable persons to execute your deceased estate and manage the testamentary trust assets thereafter
Why do many people still die without a valid Will?
7 Myths and Misconceptions around making a Will
I’m too young to need a will
The older you get, the greater your chance of dying from illness or disease. But the younger you are the higher your risk of sudden violent death. For example, our road fatality stats (amongst the highest in the world) show that 80 percent of deaths are in the 19 to 34-year-old age group. No matter your age and no matter your health status, you could die today or tomorrow. No one (least of all you) knows for sure.
2. I’m too busy right now, it can wait
The busier we are the more tempting it is to postpone this one. It’s a hassle, you have other priorities, and besides who wants to contemplate their own mortality? “Death knocks at all doors”, often without warning. And the hassle you save yourself today is just more hassle for your grieving loved ones to have to deal with tomorrow.
3. It’s OK to die without a will
If you die without a Will, your estate will be distributed in terms of the law of intestate succession. This may include beneficiaries whom you may not have wished to benefit or may exclude persons whom you would have preferred to benefit. The Master of the High Court will appoint a tutor or curator to take care of or administer the property of your minor children and their inheritance will go to the Government Guardians Fund. A guardian, whom may be different to the person you would have not preferred to care for your children, may be appointed by the court for that purpose. Finally, when a person dies intestate, the Master appoints an executor of the estate.
4. I’m single and have no assets, so a will is pointless
Firstly, you will have some assets – a bank account perhaps, or a car, or monies in your employer’s pension fund, or perhaps your estate will have a claim on the Road Accident Fund. Even if you have no spouse/life partner/children to worry about, you will still leave loved ones behind – parents perhaps, or siblings. Whatever the case, someone close to you will have to be involved in winding up your estate and you should leave a will to make the process less stressful for them.
5. My spouse already holds my Power of Attorney, that’s all he/she needs.
Powers of attorney lapse on your death and from then on only your executor, after being formally appointed by the Master of the High Court, can deal with your estate. Any powers you may have given your heirs – for example to draw money to live on from your bank account, or to run your business, or to rent out your house – fall away when you die.
6. It’s easy to draw a will, I can do it myself
Your will must comply with legal formalities to be valid. Your heirs will have to make an expensive application to the High Court to have it validated.
Your will must be crystal clear, you could ignite a bitter family feud over what your wishes really were, and that’s the last thing your grieving loved ones need to be dealing with in their time of distress.
Your marital status, marital regime and ante-nuptial contract (if you have one) need to be considered when drawing your will, and there are grey areas here which are best left to a professional.
If you have foreign assets, you need a foreign will as well as a local one. Specialized advice is essential.
The structure of your will, and upfront estate and tax planning, will reduce unnecessary cost and delay.
A last point but vitally important is to leave your heirs with ready access to funds whilst the estate is wound up. All your bank accounts and the like are automatically frozen on death so ensure your heirs have their own bank accounts, and nominate them as beneficiaries of life policies etc.
7. I made a will years ago, that’ll do the job
Life events (marriage, divorce, birth, death etc) and a whole host of other factors (like new laws and changes in your financial and business structures) all require review. So diaries and revisit your will regularly, at least once a year.
What are the Duties of an Executor of a Will?
1. Get a copy of the will and file it with the local probate court
The executor oversees, locating, reading and understanding the will even if probate isn’t necessary, the will still must be filed with the probate court. At this step, the executor also determines who inherits the property.
2. Notify banks, credit card companies and government agencies of the decedent’s death
The Social Security Administration along with the decedent’s bank and credit card companies are just some examples of who should be notified of the death.
3. Set up a bank account for incoming funds and pay any ongoing bills
If the decedent is owed money such as incoming paychecks, this account can hold them. An executor should be on the lookout for mortgages, utilities and similar bills that still need to be paid throughout the probate process.
4. File an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court
In many states, the court requires the executor to submit a detailed inventory of the assets in probate estate.
5. Decide what kind of probate is necessary
Because inheritance laws may facilitate the passing of certain properties without probate (such as property held jointly by a husband and wife), probate isn't always necessary. Additionally, the value of the estate may allow it to pass through an expedited process.
6. Maintain property until it can be distributed or sold
This includes keeping up a house until it is distributed to heirs or sold—even deciding whether property needs to be sold at all. Also, an executor must be sure to find all personal property in the estate and protect it until distribution. If the decedent had a safety deposit box, the executor should locate it and keep it safe.
7. Pay the estate’s debts and taxes
State law dictates the procedure for notifying creditors, and the estate must also file final income tax returns from the first of the current year until the date of the decedent’s death. If the estate is large enough, there may be state and/or federal estate taxes to pay as well.
8. Distribute assets
Distribution occurs according to the wishes expressed in the will. If there is no will, state intestacy laws apply.
9. Dispose of other property
If there is any property left after paying off the estate’s debts and distribution to heirs, the executor is responsible for disposing of it.
10. Represent the estate in court
An executor may be required to appear in court on behalf of the estate.
Since estates vary greatly in size and complexity, an executor's job may be easy or challenging to carry out and responsibilities may very well go beyond the 10 basic items in this list. An executor can decline the position or resign at any point in the process.
Why you should choose Retire Rich and Happy to set up your last Will and Testament
Our Will Specialist will come to you in the comfort of your own home or office. Our highly trained specialist will advise and assist you to set up your Last Will and Testament.
Our Will Specialist will also calculate your Estate, Transfer and Testamentary Trust Initial cost and Testamentary Trust Ongoing cost, they will show you how you can ensure that these costs will not affect the legacy your leaving behind for your loved ones.
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