10 Myths about Wills

Most of us are too busy with Life to worry about Death. But Death has this annoying habit of showing Life the finger and pitching up at the most inopportune time. While cheating Death may prove difficult, we can ease the process by making sure that we have drafted a will. Yet a worrying number of people do not have wills. Here are some of the more common excuses that people use for not having one.

Myth 1: It’s expensive to draft a will

If you’ve got a more complex life involving multiple investments, loads of beneficiaries, and children from previous relationships then it would be advisable to get an attorney to draft your will. But for most, you really don’t need to finance an over-priced attorney’s beach cottage to get a will. There are many easy and cost-efficient ways of drafting one. Your bank or insurance adviser will be able to help you at a nominal cost. There’re some financial advisers who will even draft one for free. Or you can get a will template like the one on Agreements Online.

Myth 2: I drafted a will years ago, so I’m covered.

Life events can affect your will. This includes: entering into or ending a relationship; getting married; getting divorced; having or adopting a child; the death of a spouse, partner, child or beneficiary. You should review your will periodically to make sure that it still applies to your current situation. And be sure to update your will as and when things in your life change.

Myth 3: I don’t need a will because I don’t own anything

The law requires all deceased estates to be properly administered. Even if you don’t think your assets are worth much, you should make a will and identify the person who you want to wind up your estate, close your bank account and distribute any possessions you may have.

Myth 4: I’ll sort out my will when I grow “old”.

Life isn’t predictable, and “old-age” isn’t guaranteed. From accidents to illnesses, anyone can find themselves knocking at Death’s door at any time. There is no time like the present to sort out your affairs and draft your will.

Myth 5: I don’t have any children, so I don’t need a will.

When you die, your estate has to be administered, and your assets need to be distributed. This is regardless of whether you have a spouse, partner or any children. By drafting your will you can identify your executor and decide who gets your assets, easing the stress on your parents, siblings, and other loved ones.

Myth 6: If I die everything will go to my spouse anyway. So why bother drafting a will?

If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the law of intestate succession. Under South African law, a formula is applied to the split of assets that are in a deceased estate without a will. This distribution includes your children and spouse. But it can also include other family members under certain circumstances. For example, consider what would happen to your assets if your spouse dies in the same calamity, eg a car accident. Having a will ensures that your assets are given to the people of your choice.

Myth 7: It won’t be my problem!

Maybe so. But your family will need to sort out your affairs. By taking the time to draft your will you can save the people you love a lot of uncertainty, stress, and expense.

Myth 8: My partner and I haven’t agreed on a guardian for our kids, so the will can wait until we’ve reached an agreement.

There are many other important issues in your will, including the appointment of an executor, the naming of heirs, establishing a testamentary trust and distribution of assets to beneficiaries. These important issues can be firmed up in a will. Then, once you’ve discussed, argued, debated, wheedled, bargained and generally thrashed out the guardianship issue with your spouse, and finally reached an agreement, you can revise your will with the information.

Myth 9: My life changes too much to do something as final as drafting a will.

It is possible to draft a will in a flexible manner, taking most eventualities into account. Plus, you can redraft your will as often as you like. If your life truly is that unpredictable, then you can review your will regularly, and change it as and when your circumstances change.

Myth 10: I’ll just leave a note telling my family what I want them to do with my stuff.

A letter isn’t a legal document, and there’s no guarantee your family will even carry out your requests. There are strict legal requirements involved in drafting a will. A letter instructing your family what to do will not meet the legal requirements and is unlikely to be enforced by the courts.

And if this article hasn’t persuaded you of the importance of drafting your will, then read our blog on the 10 Consequences of Dying Without a Will. Seriously. Draft your will.

Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.

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