Why having your affairs in order in preparation for the event of your death is more important than you think, no matter how young you may be.
Apparently death and taxes are the only things guaranteed in life and as young people we tend to think very little about the former. Even though death is inevitable, the moment it arrives is seldom planned for. Moreover, the arrogance of youth means we usually end up putting that kind of planning off until it is too late. With a global pandemic running around, it has probably never been more important to have one’s will up to date. Many of us may think that having a will is only important for the rich and elderly but we couldn’t be more wrong. So we caught up with family law expert and adaptive attorney Jennifer Stoler to find out why having an up-to-date will is important regardless of your age or financial status.
What is the point of a will?
If you spend your whole life planning, why not do the same in your death? Basically, a will is a legal document that has several requirements that need to be attended to in order to make sure that it is legally binding and valid. It gives the testator/testatrix (the person who has made the will) an opportunity to set out the distribution of their assets after death and can appoint guardians for minor children. It also nominates an executor who will attend to the “admin” related to your will and ensure that your wishes are put into action. A will is important to have as it allows you to communicate your wishes clearly and precisely.
If I don’t have any assets or money to split then what is the point of me having a will?
You may not have assets but what if you have debt? What if you have children? What will happen to other things like your bank accounts or policies? All of these eventualities can be planned for. A will isn’t only for “rich” people or people who have assets, there are three main benefits of making a will even if your asset base is small or non-existent:
1. It makes life easier for your family when you pass. You are literally giving them a “to-do” list for them to follow and death is hard enough; the last thing you need is having to deal with the endless admin of the master’s office.
2. It also allows you to distribute assets, nominate a guardian/s for your minor child/ren, create a trust for them with money that will be donated to support them (rather than placing it in the guardian’s state fund) and nominate an executor who will essentially plan a way forward in your death.
3. Finally, it prevents your estate from being distributed on an interstate basis.
What happens if I die without a will?
Your estate will be distributed on an interstate basis which is explained here https://www.gov.za/faq/justice-and-crime-prevention/intestate-succesion#
As a young person is it important to have your will done and if so, why?
If you are a 16-year-old and like me, was basically just skipping class and causing havoc, then it probably is not super important to have your affairs in order. That said, if you are a 16-year-old YouTube star, for instance, then of course it is. It is not really about the age, it is about the practicalities around death. If you have anything you want to “give away” when you leave this earth, have children or simply want to nominate someone to take care of the “admin” and be the executor of your estate, then YES!
How, where and with whom can one get a will done?
Well, I draft wills and you can get in touch with me on social media @thedivorcechick. Alternatively, any attorney can also draft one if they have the experience. Finally, every year there is a week where the law society arranges for law firms to get involved and draft wills for people, for free. Whatever you do, PLEASE I BEG YOU, do not go to CNA and fill in one of those Will templates. There are so many legal requirements that are needed for a will to be valid and signing one of those templates exposes you to a rollercoaster of problems.
As per usual, always bear in mind that the best place to get legal advice is straight from an attorney. This piece is meant to be educational but does not count as real-life legal advice.
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