A short will is not necessarily sweet

It’s National Wills week this week 14 – 18 September, the goal is to make people aware of the importance of having a valid will. By making a will you ensure that your assets are disposed of in accordance with your wishes after your death.  If you die without leaving a valid will, your assets will be distributed according to the provisions of the Interstate Succession Act. This may lead to conflict, unhappiness, unnessary costs, long waiting periods and your assets going to a person you did not intend.  Finweeks article below “A short will is not neccesarily sweet” highlights all the important details to ensuring a valid will for your family.

A short will is not necessarily sweet – Finweek 15 Sep,  http://finweek.com/2015/09/14/a-short-will-is-not-necessarily-sweet/

It is really important not to be short sighted when drafting a will as it one of the most important documents you are ever likely to put in place. Don’t take shortcuts in the drafting process; if your will is incomplete or unclear, it may result in additional strain on your loved ones during what will already be a difficult time.

Make sure that your will is comprehensive but uncomplicated by paying careful attention to how it is drafted.

Some people might think that a simple, one-page will is sufficient to transfer ownership of their worldly possessions to their heirs. Others even consider a pre-printed form, available at the local bookshop, as an estate plan. The do-it-yourself format is not what estate planning is all about. It is merely a weak effort to prevent a chaotic mess – but a mess usually results nonetheless.

However, a will does not have to be an overly complicated document to be effective. A carefully well thought out will, consisting of only a few pages and drafted by a knowledgeable estate practitioner, can simplify matters for your heirs and save them a significant amount in estate and other taxes.

An overly complicated will might use difficult words and phrases, or incorporate some control mechanism to restrict heirs’ use of worldly belongings. This may be a genuine attempt to protect loved ones, but might only make life difficult for them.

Finding middle ground

The answer lies somewhere in between. Each person has unique circumstances, therefore each will or estate plan needs to be tailored accordingly.

Communication is one of the cornerstones of this process. The estate owner must be able to convey their needs to the estate practitioner, who in turn must be able to identify the shortcomings in the existing will or estate plan. More importantly, the estate practitioner must be able to provide guidance on the various solutions on offer.

A properly drafted will and estate plan is the end result of a structured process, including a proper analysis of the goals of the estate planning exercise. Don’t just try to avoid estate and other taxes. Many estate plans have failed because, although very tax efficient, they neglected the needs of family members.

Considerations when drafting

Be practical: Do not create a burden for your executor or trustees – and ultimately your family – who have to implement and administer the structures you set in place. For example, trusts that are set up to last in perpetuity can be tricky.

Ask your children what they want: Consider existing trusts and other estate planning vehicles that your children may already have set up. If they prefer to receive any benefit directly, despite the benefit that a control mechanism can offer, then consider this.

Allow for flexibility: Do not restrict the movement of assets or the transfer of wealth that could otherwise have benefited your children and grandchildren.

Freedom of testation means that you can leave your assets to whomever you please, as long as your actions are legal. Apart from statutory limitations, there are three general exceptions to this rule namely claims for maintenance from dependents, a surviving spouse or claims in terms of the accrual system created by the Matrimonial Property Act.

Keep it plain, keep it simple

The worst possible thing is when heirs dispute the validity of a will. When interpreting a will, our courts look at the ordinary meaning of words and phrases used in the will. Clear, concise language is of the utmost importance to make sure that there can be no doubt about the true intention of the estate owner’s wishes.

Do not underestimate the impact that an improperly drafted will – or the absence of a will – can have on your family. There are too many horror stories about the cost of procrastination. Make an appointment with a recognised and accredited estate practitioner and get it done.

Article by http://finweek.com/2015/09/14/a-short-will-is-not-necessarily-sweet/