Before drawing up your Will, please read through the information on this page to ensure that you create a valid Will. If your Will is found to be invalid, your estate will devolve according to the rules of Intestate Succession and your Last Will and Testament will be disregarded.
Writing your own Will
If your circumstances are simple, you can use our Free Will Template to write your own Will. If your circumstances are complex (with dependents, overseas assets, etc.), you are more than welcome to contact us here and we’ll put you in contact with one of our trusted partners who can draw up a custom Will for you for free.
Those outside of South Africa can use our template provided they get their completed Will checked by local authorities. That is the only way to ensure that it is valid.
Requirements of a valid Will
In order for a Will to be valid it must comply with the following:
- You (the testator) must be over the age of 16 years
- A Will must be in clear and readable writing, either typed or handwritten. If handwritten, note that the person (and his/her spouse) who writes the Will is not allowed to be mentioned as a beneficiary or executor in your Will.
- The pages should be numbered
- It’s important for the Will to be dated to established which is your final Will.
- The Will must be signed in the presence of at least two competent witnesses, present at the same time and in your (the testator) presence.
- It must be signed at the end of the document as well as on every page by you (the testator) and witnesses.
- Signatures should be as close to the last line of every page.
- Witnesses must be 14 years of age or older, mentally competent and cannot be beneficiaries to your estate. If someone stands to benefit from your Will, they cannot sign as a witness, and neither can their spouse.
- Witnesses cannot be nominated as an executor, administrator, trustee or guardian
- Ensure that your original signed Will is kept safe by a trustworthy person or institution, as a copy of a Will is not deemed a valid Will.
- Claims for maintenance are regarded as a sort of debt owing by the estate and therefore have preference over legacies and other bequests.
- An ante nuptial contract may contain a variety of succession agreements and testamentary dispositions which may be enforceable and have preference over a Will.
- If married in community of property, each owns one undivided half-share of the joint estate, it is advisable to have a joint Will drawn up.
Choosing your executor
The person you nominate as your executor should be a trustworthy, solvent and responsible person who is likely to be alive at the time of your death, it could also be a legal firm or financial institution. You can choose a beneficiary as your executor provided they are competent, solvent and over 18 years of age. If your nominated executor is not experienced in estates, he/she can be assisted by an attorney. It is a good idea to ask the person you want to name as executor if he/she is willing to act as executor of your estate.
Exempting your executor from furnishing security
Children and spouses are automatically exempt from furnishing security. In all likelihood, the Master of the High Court will demand security where a person has not been exempted. It is important that you exempt your executor from furnishing security as it is difficult and sometimes costly for an executor to obtain a security bond for winding up an estate. Owing to the difficulty with security it is important that you choose your executor with great care. The only time you would omit the exemption from furnishing security is in a case where you do not trust your executor, in which case you should not appoint that person.
Taking legal advice
It is always a good idea to get an attorney or legal advisor to check your Will to ensure that your intentions are clearly communicated and that your Will is legally compliant. We advise that you seek legal advice in drafting a Will if you have special circumstances, for example: dependents that require maintenance, handicapped dependents, overseas assets, if you are married or have a business. In any of these cases, you are more than welcome to contact us here and we’ll put you in contact with one of our trusted partners who can draw up a custom Will for you for free.
Updating your Will
Your Will should be updated as soon as your circumstances have changed, for example, when you purchase a new property, get married, have a child, get divorced, etc. It’s a good rule of thumb to review your Will at least every five years, even if you don’t think anything is different.
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Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, all come from earth, and to earth all return.
Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust,
all come from earth,
and to earth all return.