I’d like to start by explaining what will happen to what you own after you die if you don’t have a will:
a family member must report your death to the Master’s office, and they will assist the family in choosing someone who will gather your assets, pay your debts and then divide up what is left over (“your estate”) to your family members, as follows:
- if you are married in community of property at the time of your death, your spouse will get half of your estate
- if you are married with a child or children at the time of your death, and your estate is worth R250 000 or less, your spouse will get everything. If your estate is worth more than R250 000, the first R250 000 goes to your spouse and the rest is divided between your spouse and children as follows:
say your estate is R900 000 and you have a wife and two children, then your widow and your children will each get R300 000.
say your estate is R300 000, then your wife will get R250 000 and each of the children R50 000.
- If you have a spouse, but no children, your spouse will inherit everything.
- If you have children, but at the time of death you are not married, your estate will be divided equally between your children.
- If any of your children die before you, their portion will go to their children.
What I have described above, are the rules of intestate succession, in other words, the rules that decide who will inherit if you die without a will. There are plenty more detailed rules what deal with all of the other possible situations.
If the outcome I’ve described in terms of these rules doesn’t suit you, you should get a will.
You should also get a will drawn up if you want to bequeath a specific asset to anyone in particular- that is called a legacy.
If you have children who are under eighteen and you have a considerable estate, you should also consider a will which includes provision for a trust for your children during the time that they are too young to administer their inheritance. A will also allows you to nominate a guardian for your children.
If you want to donate any portion of your estate to charity, then you need a will.
If you want to bequeathe something subject to a condition, e.g. “I bequeathe my grand piano to my granddaughter Sophie if she decides to study music after Matric”, you will also need a will.
We highly recommend that spouses who decide to have wills drawn up, have separate wills, rather than one joint will.
Feel free to contact us if you need a will- we love drafting wills.