What is a Will?
Your Will is an important and carefully worded legal document that outlines how you want your Estate handled after your death. Some people allot their possession to family members, friends or charities.
Your Estate includes all real estate and personal property that you own, but some assets will not be part of an Estate. For example, if you have an insurance policy which has a particular person named as beneficiary, or if you jointly own property to which the right of survivorship applies (i.e., property owned jointly) these will not be part of the Estate.
Should you prepare a Will?
It is important to prepare a Will to guarantee that your wishes are carried out. If you do not have a Will it can be very difficult for your family and beneficiaries to sort out your estate. Many unfortunate family conflicts have resulted from a family member not leaving a proper Will and lengthy and expensive Court proceedings may be necessary before your Estate is settled.
Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to a scheme stated in the Intestate Succession Act which declares that the surviving relatives inherit certain percentages. The Act’s distribution of your assets may not be what you would have wished. A Will ensures that your estate is distributed to those friends, relatives and charities whom you wish to benefit.
Who can make a Will?
Anyone who is older than 18 and understands the nature and effect of a Will can write a Will. If you made a Will, but did not have testamentary capacity when the Will was executed, the Will is not valid. In this case, your estate would be distributed under the Intestate Succession Act or by a prior valid Will.
How do I make a Will?
A Will drafted by a lawyer will ensure that your wishes are carried out and will prevent misunderstandings or conflicts among beneficiaries. The cost of having a lawyer draft your Will is minimal compared with the costs of rectifying problems caused by improperly drafted and executed Wills.
A lawyer will also assess your need for an Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive. These documents appoint someone to handle your legal and personal affairs in the event of your mental incapacity, and provide direction to your medical care givers if you are hospitalized for a terminal illness.