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Attorneys often hear people say they do not need a Will since they do not have any assets. This myth can cause complications in what could have been a straightforward process. If you pass away without leaving a valid Will, your estate (i.e., everything you own) will be administered in terms of the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987. This is not ideal for several reasons. Where your personal affairs and estate planning is concerned, it is best to be prepared for your own sake as well as the loved ones you leave behind.

Getting started

You realise you need a Will. What do you do now?

The first step is to make an appointment with a professional. There are countless online templates and services offering to draft your Will instantly. Unfortunately, these services do not have a complete and holistic overview of your personal situation and testamentary needs. It is essential that a professional advise you on the best way to structure your Will and to caution against any common mistakes.

When preparing to have a Will drafted there are different factors to consider:

The Executor

Your Will should identify who you would like to act as Executor of your estate. It is the Executor’s duty to ensure that your estate is administered according to your Will and that your wishes are carried out. Any adult person can be the Executor of an estate. It should be someone you trust with overseeing your affairs, such as a spouse, family member, or a legal or accounting professional. If the total value of the assets in an estate is above R250 000.00 and the nominated Executor is a layperson, the Master of the High Court will direct them to instruct legal or accounting professionals to assist.


Consider what kind of assets you have. Is it immovable property, a business, or investments? The nature of the assets will impact how they are dealt with in your Will. For instance, if you will need to have a buy-and-sell agreement for your business or to avoid your immovable property being divided up between multiple heirs.

What if you have foreign assets? It is advisable that you make a specific Will for your South African assets, as well as a Will for each country where you have foreign assets. Laws of succession are not universal, and each country will have their own requirements for a valid Will, how an estate is dealt with and how heirs are determined.

How often do you need to update your Will?

There is no fixed time period for when to update your Will. It is advisable to update it whenever a major life event occurs. Some examples are:


Getting married has a significant impact on your legal status irrespective of whether you are married in or out of community of property and with or without the accrual system.


If your child is a beneficiary in your Will, it is essential that you update your Will if you have additional children to ensure that all your children are provided for accordingly.


In terms of legislation, for three months after the divorce your ex-spouse is automatically disinherited from your Will. If you fail to amend your Will after three months, your ex-spouse will receive the benefits set out in the Will you drafted when you were still married and it is deemed that you intended them to still an heir after the divorce.

Change in assets

When you specifically bequeath your property X to person Y in your Will, but then you sell X, that bequest will fall away completely. You cannot bequeath an asset you do not own. It can create a complication if the Master of the High Court requires the Executor to furnish proof that the asset did not belong to you at time of death.

Getting a Will can seem like a daunting and uncomfortable task, but it is not complicated and offers peace of mind that your affairs are in order. Curran Attorneys ensures the process is efficient and professional. Any queries relating to Wills and estate planning can be directed to jeanne@curranattorneys.co.za.