What is a Last Will and Testament?

A will or a "Last Will and Testament" is a document in which you describe exactly what you want to happen to your goods and assets after you die. To be valid, a will has to be drawn up correctly and signed by you and two witnesses at the same time.

Your will is part of your estate's overall financial management plan. Should you die intestate (without a valid will), your assets can go people you never intended to benefit - and the process can take very long. A clear Last Will and Testament ensures that, after your death, your assets are distributed according to your wishes. It is best to have your will drawn up professionally. This can be done by a lawyer, your insurance company, your bank or a trust company. In your will you must stipulate an executor which, in the case of a very simple estate, could be a family member.

It is best to have your will drawn up professionally.

Who is allowed to make a will?

Any person except:

  • persons below the age of 16 years;
  • persons who are mentally incapable of being accountable for their actions.

In terms of legislation, the property of the estate of a deceased person can be transferred to beneficiaries, either in terms of intestate succession or testate succession. Making a will ensures that, after your death, your funds, property and personal effects will be distributed according to your wishes.

How do I draft a will?

The person who makes a will is called a testator or a testatrix. For the will to be legal, it must comply with certain formalities. Should the will not comply with legal prescriptions, it will be null and void and the intestate succession will apply.

  • The will must be in writing;
  • The will must be signed in full on each page by the testator;
  • The testator (and in the case of a combined will, the testatrix as well) must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses must also sign in each other's presence and in the presence of the testator and the testatrix. Should the testator or testatrix sign by way of a mark, a commissioner of oaths must certify the identity of the testator or testatrix;

  • The witnesses have to be at least fourteen years of age;

  • Any person that benefits from the will is not allowed signing as a witness; Should this be the case, they would be disqualified to inherit under the will;

  • An appointed executor is not allowed to sign as witness. Should this be the case, the appointment would be nullified;

  • The will must be dated upon being signed by the relevant parties.