You are Here > Home > Financial planning > Common mistakes to avoid when drafting a will

Common mistakes to avoid when drafting a will

Sep 16, 2015

If you have a will, you’ll have the last word on what should happen to the fruits of all your hard work when you are gone, right? Not quite, says Sanlam Trust legal adviser, Clive Hill.

Will2Wills have split up families, turned siblings into prime enemies and wasted inheritance money on horrific court battles. Most people draft a will because they want to avoid inheritance battles, but the common mistakes discussed below can fuel more family feuds.

Vague language

A will that is not clearly worded may cause confusion and eventually require a court ruling. For instance, a will that simply states “I bequeath all my money to my daughter, Penny” can easily be challenged. What exactly is money? Is it notes and coins found in the testator’s wallet on the day she died, or does it include the fixed deposit at the bank and other financial investments?

Likewise, saying “I bequeath my estate to my children” is not sufficient – you should state if you are referring to your biological children only, if you have other children too. A few words – an accurate description of exactly what you mean, such as “I bequeath the balance of my cheque account at the date of my death to my daughter Jane” – can have a major effect on the implementation of your will.

Distributing your assets equally among heirs

It is not a good plan to distribute everything equally if you have more than one heir – except if your entire estate consists of cash. For instance, transferring ownership of a house to your spouse and all your children may cause practical problems, as they all wuld then have a right to live in the house. Is that practical? Transferring ownership of a car to four people is not practical either. One of the heirs will have to buy the car if he or she wants to keep it ‒ and what if all of them want to buy it?

Involving beneficiaries in the drafting of your will

If any of your heirs signed as a witness or helped draft your will, they could be disqualified from receiving their inheritance if the other heirs were to challenge the will. Although a disqualified heir is entitled to approach the court to resolve this, it can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Not making provision for minors’ inheritance

Often parents nominate minor children as beneficiaries of assets such as insurance policy payouts, property and other investment proceeds. If, as a parent, you haven’t created a trust to hold the inheritance on behalf of the minor, it will be held by the Guardian’s Fund, which is administered by the Master of the High Court, a public entity, which only invests the assets in low-interest-bearing investments. This can be to the detriment of the minor beneficiaries, especially if they are very young.

Setting up a trust in your will (called a testamentary trust) will ensure that the money you leave for your children is easily accessible for their needs and will be used as intended – to pay for their upbringing.

Apart from these common mistakes, the biggest mistake most people make is not reviewing their wills when their circumstances change. New children, new assets and new relatives come into the picture. That’s why you should review your will at least once a year.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

Previous Articles

Self-service facility for GEPF members

Technology is making it easier for GEPF members and pensioners to keep track of their pension information and claims process. By downloading the new GEPF self-service mobile app onto your device, you can remove the frustration of standing in long queues at GEPF...

GEPF establishes complaints handling office

If you are struggling to get your claims processed or not receiving your benefits, help is at hand with the recent establishment of the Government Employees Pension Ombud (GEPO). The state is the largest employer in the country, and the Government Employees Pension...

More households supporting unemployed family

For many working South Africans, the pressure of financially supporting friends and family is unrelenting. Most of us have either experienced a job loss or have a family member who lost an income due to the extended Covid-19 lockdown. It is not surprising then that...

What is screen scraping and is it safe?

Screen scraping can be used by criminals to steal data, but financial services companies are increasingly making legitimate use of this too. Angelique Ruzicka investigates what the process entails and how consumers can protect themselves. Screen scraping can be hugely...

Are banks putting customers first?

Banks were in the spotlight recently with the release of the annual report by the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) and feedback from the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) regarding the banks’ adherence to the Conduct Standard. The draft Conduct Standard...

Should women celebrate community of property rights?

There has been much celebration around the protection of women in customary marriages with President Ramaphosa recently signing into law the amended Recognition of Customary Marriages Act. However, are these women fully aware of the implications, especially around...

Five tax myths many employees still believe

Tanya Tosen, Tax and Remuneration Specialist at Remuneration Consultants, addresses five tax myths that have become popular over the years. Many employees don't understand the complex tax calculations that payroll applies to their earnings each month and often...

Relief for struggling restaurants

Soft loans and payment holidays are available for restaurants still battling to survive the pandemic. At the beginning of May, my favourite local coffee shop closed its doors after 20 years of trading. My neighbourhood shopping centre, which caters to many “mom and...

Money and divorce

David Thomson, Senior Legal Adviser at Sanlam Trust, shares some practical tips about the financial side of divorce. The news of Bill and Melinda Gates filing for divorce after 27 years of marriage sent shockwaves through the philanthropic world. The couple is worth...

Lack of savings leaves SA vulnerable

A lack of emergency savings left households vulnerable to the economic shock of Covid-19. The last five years have been tough for South African consumers as salaries failed to keep up with inflation, unemployment grew, and debt levels increased. This left us extremely...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This