Remember, your will is a ‘live’ document; when your personal and financial circumstances change, so should your will.

Getting down to writing a will is one of those things most of us avoid. That’s understandable because when doing so we have to consider our death and leaving our loved ones. But it is those loved ones who need you to tackle that document now, before it’s too late.


If you do not have a will at the time of your death, the state will impose a will on your estate through its intestate succession legislation. This means that those whom you would’ve wanted to benefit may not do so, or not in the way you would’ve chosen.

According to intestate succession legislation your assets will be distributed as follows:

Deceased is survived by How estate is divided
Only the surviving spouse -Total estate goes to the spouse
Only descendants -Total estate is divided between descendants
Spouse and descendants -The spouse gets the greater of R125 000 or a child’s share and the balance is divided equally between the descendants
Both parents -Your estate is divided equally between both parents
One parent, no descendants of deceased parent -Total estate goes to the parent
One parent and descendants of deceased parent- Half the estate goes to the parent; balance is divided equally amongst descendants of the deceased parent
No spouse, No descendants , No parents, but descendants through mother & descendants through father -Estate divided into two parts: half to descendants through mother, half to descendants through father
No spouse, No descendants , No parents, No descendants through mother or father -Estate goes equally to Blood Relatives that are nearest in degree of relationship.
Even if the interstate succession is how you would wish your estate to be wound up, the absence of a will at the time of your death will result in delays, meaning your loved ones will be denied financial support until all the legalities concerning your estate are resolved.


Simple and sound: Drawing up a will is relatively simple, but if completed with the help of an attorney, your bank or a trust administration company, it will also be legally sound and practical in terms of winding up your estate.

Plain and practical: Write your will plainly, in the language you would speak at home, and keep your instructions as practical as possible. Remove any Latin or legal phrases you do not understand or have them rewritten. Ask an impartial third party to read the document to ensure that there are no ambiguities and their interpretation is the same as yours.

Living document: Remember that your will is a ‘live’ document: you should review it every three to five years (or sooner) as your personal (marriage, divorce, birth of a child) and financial circumstances change.

Sufficient funds: A life cover policy is a cost-effective way of ensuring that there are enough funds to settle your debts and taxes after your death, as well as give your children financial security.

Legal guardian: Appoint a guardian to take care of your children. Draft a letter to convey your wishes regarding how you would like your children to be raised.

Marriage and your will: Your marital status (or common law partnership) affects your assets and therefore your will. The legal agreement at the time of your marriage (whether in or out of community, with or without accrual) must be taken into account in your will. This is where a legal advisor would be helpful.

Trust funds: A testamentary trust is an effective way of providing for the financial future and well-being of your minor children. The trust comes into existence only on your death. The trust deed should be drafted by an attorney specialising in this field.

Safe and sound: Place your updated will and any letters to family and friends in a folder and keep it in a secure place. Tell one or two trusted people where to find these documents at the time of your death.

Article courtesy of Geraldine Macpherson: Legal Marketing Specialist- Liberty Life