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When you need to update your will

Apr 14 2018 06:45

Cape Town - Specific lifestyle events could trigger the need to update your will, says Roy McMurchie, head: fiduciary services at PPS.

These events include the following:

  • Starting your working career;
  • A change in marital status -getting married or divorced;
  • A change in your assets, such as purchasing a home;
  • The addition of new family members, including the birth or adoption of a child;
  • Dependency of family members, especially those with special needs;
  • Death of a family member or beneficiary; and
  • The establishment of a business.

"Even though a person may not have assets, circumstances may change quickly, for example receiving an inheritance from parents or grandparents. This is why everyone should have a will,” he explains.

McMurchie explains that dying without a will leaves your assets in the hands of an executor not of your choice, who will distribute them to beneficiaries in terms of the Intestate Succession Act.

In the absence of a will, the estate is administered and distributed to persons deemed to be beneficiaries by this act. This allows the Master of the Court to oversee the appointment of an executor of the estate.

This means the distribution of the assets - as required by law - is based on your failure to allocate your assets according to your wishes. This could also lead to a long, drawn-out legal process.

“So many people pass away without a valid or current will in place and the result is that you are not able to decide how your assets should be distributed,” said McMurchie.

Potential court action and assets not being distributed according to your wishes aren’t the only challenges. According to McMurchie, it creates a delay in the distribution of the assets and can diminish the value of the estate due to the additional fees, such as legal costs being incurred. It also creates additional stress for the families impacted.

Family dilemma

Families are also not authorised to deal directly with the SA Revenue Service (SARS), attorneys and insurance providers. These institutions will only deal with the executor once formally appointed by the Master.

“A considerable concern for parents is that they will not be able to select and appoint the guardian for their children. Dying intestate creates uncertainty regarding the children’s’ guardianship, and if there are custody battles, or a lack of potential guardians, the state is then responsible for deciding where they should be placed,” says McMurchie.

The release of funds for dependents will also be restricted and heirs may not necessarily receive assets expected. A minor’s inheritance will be placed in the Master of the High Court’s Guardian’s Fund until he attains majority, in an intestate estate.

"One can draft a will from the age of 16, but it is important to ensure that you keep it updated and that it caters for your current circumstances,” he says.

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pps  |  wills  |  personal finance  |  money
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