By SHAUN BERGOVER and NDUMISO KHUMALO
Death is something that is certain, and therefore it is important to plan for what will happen to your finances, your children and your belongings when you die.
One way in which to make sure that your wishes are fulfilled after you die, is to have a Will drawn up by a person who is experienced in drafting Wills, such as an attorney. If you die without a Will your property will be divided amongst your surviving heirs, whether or not you want them to inherit. For assistance or advice on Wills or what to do when someone has died, feel free to contact the Rhodes University Law Clinic on the details provided below.
WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?
Estate planning is formally planning and preparing for what will happen to your financial affairs, your children and your belongings after you die.
In the same way that we plan for various occasions in our lives such as marriage, university or retirement, so too we also have to plan ahead and ensure that the necessary and important arrangements have been provided for in the event of death.
By planning for your death, you are able to decide what should happen to your assets and how your children will be provided for. This will also prevent unnecessary arguments between family members as your wishes will be set out in your Will.
In the same way in which we take steps to plan, execute and formalise certain milestones in our lives, it is important that we also plan and prepare for the final milestone in our lives — death.
EXECUTING A VALID WILL
There are a number of issues which one needs to bear in mind when planning for your death. The most important part of estate planning is being able to decide for yourself what will happen to your assets and family when you die.
The only way in which the law will recognise your intentions of what should happen to your estate, is if your intentions/wishes are documented in writing in the form of a Will.
Should you fail to prepare a valid Will prior to your death you will be said to have died intestate, and the laws of intestate succession will determine how your estate is divided (the rules of intestate succession will be dealt with in our September column).
If, however, you leave behind a valid Will, you are considered to have died testate and your estate will be distributed according to your wishes.
SAFEGUARDING IMPORTANT DOCUMENTATION
When preparing for one’s death, it is very important that any relevant documentation is kept in a safe place. It is also important that this documentation is kept up to date and in order. A common mistake which is often made by people is that they fail to store their documents in a safe place. Sorting out your important papers is a vital part of estate planning.
Below is a list of documents that may be important after you die:
- Identity Document
- Marriage certificate
- Title Deed in respect of Immovable property
- Payslips /UIF card
- Bank and Policy documents
- Birth certificates of children
- Your Will
FAILURE TO STORE YOUR DOCUMENTS IN A SAFE PLACE COULD RESULT IN:
- Your family having to search for papers and documents after you have passed.
- Inability to lodge any claims on your behalf.
- Difficulty in administering your estate.
KEEPING YOUR RECORDS UPDATED
It is vitally important that you keep your records and documents up to date and replace any documents which you may have lost or misplaced. It often occurs during our lives that we lose our identity documents, children’s birth certificates, title deeds or policy and/or fund membership agreements.
Always ensure that you take the necessary steps to obtain new copies of any lost document as this will save your family a lot of time and effort after your passing.
NB: It is important that you tell someone that you trust where to find all your important documentation, especially your Will. Should you fail to store your documents securely they may end up in the wrong hands and this could result in unwanted problems.
“The Gift of Life”
The Organ Donor Foundation is a non-profit organisation which aims to address the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors in South Africa. There are well over 3 500 people waiting for organ and corneal transplants. Unfortunately, due to the shortage of organ donors, less than 1 000 people only will receive a transplant per year. We can all save a life by becoming a member of the Organ Donor Foundation.
Know the Law
This is the first in a series of four articles on the laws governing death and dying. Besides the trauma of death for the deceased and those near and dear, there are numerous legal consequences which can have far-reaching practical and financial implications for those that remain behind. By taking time to attend to these matters there is much that can be done address these matters pro-actively and to ease some of the stress and hardships associated with death.
It is for this reason that the Law Clinic seeks to empower people with a better understanding of these laws in order to enable them to better manage their affairs in relation to death and dying.
The Rhodes University Law Clinic strives to improve access to justice through the provision of free legal services to underprivileged people in most areas of law. In addition to its New Street offices, Law Clinic staff are available to clients at the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi), Nceme Street, Joza, every Thursday from 9am-12pm.
The Law Clinic also provides monthly workshops on a wide range of topics on Wednesdays at 2.15pm in order to raise awareness of people’s rights. The workshops are conducted by staff of the Rhodes University Law Clinic at the Assumption Development Centre, Nceme Street, Joza. The dates of these workshops for the remainder of 2017 are: 13 September, 11 October, 8 November and 22 November 2017.
For more detail, please contact the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi) or the Rhodes Law Clinic:
Rhodes University Law Clinic
41 New Street, Grahamstown
Telephone 046 603 7656