Where there is a Will, there is a way
Death is not easy to discuss. Very few people are comfortable discussing death with their parents or children and it is often approached in a tongue in cheek sort of way.
My purpose is certainly not to instill the fear of death in you, but to motivate you to be prepared for the inevitable. As Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
With 2018 just starting, why not tick drafting your Will off your to-do-list right from the start. It will give you peace of mind that your affairs are in order and time to think and reflect on all the other exiting New Year’s resolutions that you have.
It is so important to make sure that you have a legal, updated Will that is kept in a safe place where either your financial planner or your partner can access it in the event of your death. A Will ensures that your wishes after death are carried out according to your instruction, including how your assets will be distributed.
The most important reason to have a legally binding Will is to protect your loved ones. Especially so if you have minor children or family members that rely on you for their financial and emotional well-being.
Unfortunately, statistics in South Africa show that more than 90% people don’t have Wills. This is a scary thought, since we work so hard accumulating assets and wealth while alive; to let it all go to waste upon death. It leaves families and children destitute and impoverished for much longer than is necessary. The state then decides how to distribute your assets and appoints a guardian for your children and this could end up being a very lengthy process.
Drafting a Will is certainly one of the most important documents you will create in your lifetime. You have to make really difficult decisions around allocating a guardian for your children and how to fairly distribute your assets. It dredges up a lot of anxiety, fear and conflict and can lead to many stressful family relationships if these conversations are not engaged in.
Here are some starting tips in planning your Will:
- Include your financial planner in this discussion. So often, Wills are set-up without taking the financial plan into account. This could lead to serious disappointment for family members left behind should there be any problems with liquidity when bequests are made.
- Update your Will regularly, especially if your circumstances change. For example, if you have entered into a second marriage. If your Will has not been updated accordingly, your children may be the sole beneficiaries of the Will and your spouse left completely out of the loop. Reversely so, if your spouse is allocated all your assets and not your children, it can cause a lot of resentment and anger.
- Think carefully before you appoint an executor. While it may fit comfortably to appoint a family member, it often leads to a lot of stress for that person and possibly resentment when other family members feel that that they are being instructed and ordered by a family member as executor. Also, an executor calls for a fairly skilled and talented person: one who has legal and taxation knowledge and capable of dealing with heightened emotions and many parties during the administration of the estate.
- Open up dialogue, exchange ideas with your loved ones, and don’t be afraid to talk about your Will. It could resolve possible conflict and disagreements resulting in happier family relationships – it does not have to be a battle of wills!
- Draft a letter of “wishes” – although this is not a legal document, it accompanies your Will and provides clarity on your intentions and decisions as stipulated in your Will.
“To die and part is a less evil; but to part and live, there, there is the torment.”George Landsdowne