Q: My bank drafted my will, but I don’t like it. What can I do now?

My Will was drafted by my bank. But I don’t like it. There’re lots of spelling and grammatical errors, there’re a lot of clauses I don’t understand, and they’ve named the bank as my executor even though I specifically asked them not to. What can I do now?

A:

If you don’t like your Will, or you want to make changes to it, the easiest thing to do is draft a brand-new Will. In terms of South African law, a later-dated Will will supersede all previous Wills.

Many people get their Wills drafted by financial institutions or insurance brokers, generally because it’s free or cheap, or because they don’t know how else to go about it. There are a couple of things to bear in mind:

  • The reason this route is cheap or free is because the bank / insurance broker / insurance company generally names themselves as the executor. Then, when you die, they will wind up your estate and be entitled to earn the executor’s fees. There’s nothing wrong with this if you’re happy with it. But this is not the only route to go. You can insist on executors of your choosing. This is, after all, your Last Will and Testament. Your drafter will either acquiesce, or charge you a higher fee for the Will, or refuse. Either way the final choice should always be yours, and if you don’t agree with their terms you can always get your Will drafted elsewhere.
  • Read your Will before signing it. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask for an explanation. If there’s anything you don’t agree with or not in accordance with your wishes, ask for it to be changed. And above all, if you’re not comfortable with it, don’t sign it.

You need to be comfortable with your Will. This is, after all, the final legacy that you will be leaving your loved ones with. Make sure that you are completely satisfied with:

  • the executors named in your Will
  • the gifting of possessions to named beneficiaries
  • the heirs, including each heir’s percentage share of your estate
  • the identity of guardians appointed for your minor children
  • the identity of the trustees appointed to any testamentary trust that you may include for the benefit of heirs who are minors
  • your choice of what happens to your mortal remains.

And remember: if it transpires that you don’t like the Will that you signed, or want to make changes, or your circumstances change over time, you can always draft a new one.

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