A last Will and testament is a signed, legal declaration wherein you name a person or persons to manage your estate and  detail specifically how your assets will be transferred upon your death.

For starters, says FNB Wealth’s fidicuary expert, Louis Venter, your will should deal only with assets which you own directly. “Often wills include sundry wishes like a request to be cremated or buried, a wish not to be kept alive on machines and the wish to donate organs,’ says Venter. “Your will also deals with the appointment of guardians for your minor children, and the trustees and executors who will look after your assets and your estate administration respectively.’

Some of these points have a place in a will, others less so. Let’s look at what you should include in your will:

  • The Basics: In essence this is who get what from your estate upon your death.
  • Gifts: You can also give bequests to your beneficiaries in your will. These could include things like artwork or maybe a music collection to a friend or a gift to someone who is not one of the main beneficiaries.
  • Trustees: Your will can also appoint trustees to manage money for under-age children and beneficiaries who are unable to manage their affairs without assistance.
  • Executor: Your will should include who you are appointing as the executor of the will as well as who you are appointing as a guardian for minor children, if you have any.
  • Last wishes: In your will you can also include how you want your funeral and burial to be handled.

Changing your will

As a result of life’s constant changes it is important to review your will on a regular basis; especially when life-changing events take place. One such incident is divorce; Venter stresses that you must amend your will within three months of your divorce. “If you don’t change your will, the law still appoints your ex an heir and that might not be what you wish for,’ he explains.

Other reasons to change your will could be:

  • Getting married
  • Having or adopting children
  • Inheriting assets from family or friends
  • Selling your business or buying a business
  • Winning the lottery
  • Retiring
  • Buying property outside of your home country
  • Moving to a new country

Managing your Will with money offshore

According to Venter, assets abroad are still subject to the administration process locally and will be included in your death duty calculation. ‘Depending on the type of asset and the jurisdiction those assets are in it might require an administrative process called probate to have those assets transferred to your heirs. For this reason it might, in certain circumstances, make sense to limit your South African will only to deal with South African assets and then to have a will draw up for assets situated in another jurisdiction according to the jurisdiction’s law,; he says.

Venter suggest that the default should be to include everything on your South African will and then just follow an offshore probate abroad using your South African will. For that purpose it is wise to have your will written in English and to have two original wills signed. It is recommended that you speak to a Wealth specialist about this process.

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