Reitumetse Makwea
Digital Intern
3 minute read
14 Sep 2021
8:10 am

At least 70% of the working class died without drafting a will in 2019, says govt

Reitumetse Makwea

If you die without a will, the Intestate Succession Act determines your heirs.

Picture for illustration purposes.

While more than 50% of working South Africans do not have a will, at least 70% of the working class died without drafting a will in 2019.

The master of the high court and the department of justice and constitutional development on Monday announced the start of the annual wills week campaign, where at least 923 law firms have registered to help people draft their wills for free.

According to Liberty’s senior legal marketing specialist Faeeza Khan, the importance of a valid will forms part of the holistic financial planning process.

“The purpose of a will is to encompass your intention regarding the distribution of your assets; choosing guardians for your minor children and trustees for any testamentary trust that you set up for your children in the event of your death,” she said.

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Khan said a person should have a will from the age of 16, especially people who have assets; children; have partners or policies payable to their estate in writing, signed by the testator and two witnesses.

Halaletsang Komako, whose grandfather died shortly after his retirement, said the absence of a will tore their family apart and also robbed her of a chance to pursue her dreams of becoming a medical doctor.

“My grandfather has always been a breadwinner and when he died all of that changed and we lost everything,” Komako said.

“After we found out that he did not have a will, his sisters insisted that because my mother and aunt were not his biological children, they could not inherit anything from him according to the Intestate Succession Act.”

Komako said while they consulted lawyers and also took the matter to family and small claims courts, the law insisted they could not inherit the money regardless of the deceased’s wishes.

According to Khan, estates which were distributed in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, heirs will be chosen on behalf of the deceased, which explained Komako’s challenge.

Liberty’s head of Brokers and Alternative Distribution, Fifi Mompati, said it was concerning that many South Africans believe they will only need a will when they get older.

She said a will is a legal document where you stipulate how your assets are to be dealt with when you die.

“If you die without a will, the Intestate Succession Act comes into play and determines your heirs,” she added.

“In terms of the Act, only blood relatives and spouses may inherit from you. So foster children, stepchildren, foster parents, step-parents and possibly your partner will not inherit.”

Some of the things that should be included in the will are bank accounts, unit trusts, life insurance proceeds, moveable, immoveable, corporeal, incorporeal, tangible, intangible, rights such as claims in favour of your estate are also seen as property in your estate.

Meanwhile, Mompati also said beyond the drafting of a will, what is also very important is ensuring that upon death all debts were settled.

“Good debt management means also having money to cover any debt still outstanding at that time,” she said.

The department of justice and constitutional development urged people to visit to sign up with
a law firm which was willing to draw up basic wills for free.