NOMPU SIZIBA: National Wills Week is around the corner. It’s a time when the importance of writing a will is more strongly communicated. Last year, a number of will drafters made their services available for free during this period to drive the point home. Writing your will puts you in charge of where your belongings will go once you pass on. Neglecting to sort out this matter could result in desired beneficiaries not getting what you would have wanted them to
Well, to discuss this matter further, I’m joined on the line by Tony Hakime, the head of sales and distribution at Standard Trust Limited. Thank you so much, Tony, for joining us. So many adults work very hard to cater for their families, even saving for them, making sure that they get life cover and so on, but the issue of writing a will remains hugely neglected, it seems. Why is this the case?
TONY HAKIME: Well, first of all, thank you for having me, and good evening to your listeners. It’s strange, yes, that we spend our lives accumulating wealth, yet we ignore the very process of passing these assets on. The action of doing the will is, as you’ve indicated, usually neglected. The number of people who’ve come to pass away without a will attests to this.
They say it’s estimated that between 70 and 80% of South Africans come to pass away without a will.
So why is this the case? There are probably several reasons – human nature, putting things off for tomorrow, or “I’ll get to it”. In addition to this, I think it is an unpleasant reality that we are having to face our own mortality, so there’s possibly an element of denial. And then, I suppose, finally there’s also a general lack of awareness, which makes programmes like this so important in getting the message over.
NOMPU SIZIBA: I mentioned it in the introduction, but why is it so important for one to have a will?
TONY HAKIME: You get an opportunity with a will to decide who gets what, basically. So, in your will you can specify what assets you want to leave, and to whom you want to leave those assets. You get to protect assets going to beneficiaries. You get to protect the beneficiaries themselves. You might have young children that you don’t want to inherit straight away. You might want to set up a testamentary trust. So you get all these opportunities in terms of a will to do that.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Now, when you take charge of the will process, you can choose the executor of your will. What does the executor do?
TONY HAKIME: The executive plays a pivotal role in your estate. This is the person who attends to the administration of your estate.
It’s the role of the executive to account for all your assets, to settle all your liabilities, and to distribute your assets in accordance with your wishes, as set out in terms of your will. An executive does this all in terms of the Administration of Estates Act.
For this very reason you should choose your executive carefully, and make sure that your executive is equipped with the necessary expertise to attend to your estate.
NOMPU SIZIBA: What happens in those instances when the writing of the will has been neglected?
TONY HAKIME: Great question. I’m so glad that you asked it. If you come to pass without a will, your estate devolves according to intestate succession, in terms of the Intestate Succession Act. That effectively means your estate is distributed to your nearest next of kin, according to a set formula. This in itself can lead to complications, especially if there are minor children involved, as there’s a possibility that assets may have to be sold. The estate is still administered, then by an executive not of your choosing. The process can take longer, it will prove more costly, and of course not the right beneficiaries inherit.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So it’s usually advised that people get a legal professional to help them write their will. Is this a reasonably priced service? And where are the different places that one can approach somebody or professionals to get help?
TONY HAKIME: There are several options open to people as far as getting a will is concerned – trust companies, financial entities, attorneys, and so on. The advice is always that you approach a professional person for guidance in this regard.
And, as to the pricing, this can vary depending on the complexity, and the time taken to sit down and actually do the will. For some individuals this may be a relatively simple process, a simple will, while for others there may be complex estate planning required. So it does vary specifically on the needs of the individual.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Tony, thank you so much for giving us those tips, and hopefully the listeners are listening and will make that plan to get their will drafted.
That was Tony Hakime, head of sales and distribution at Standard Trust Limited.