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National Wills Week (16–20 September) reminds us of the importance of having a valid will in place. Everyone over the age of 16 years should have a will – no matter how much (or little) you own – so that your estate can be divided between the beneficiaries of your choosing in the way you want. If you die without a will in place (known as intestate), your property will be divided according to the laws of intestate succession.
It may seem daunting to draw up a legal document, but these seven easy steps will help you create a valid will in no time.
1. Get a template
Many legal and insurance firms have online ‘Last Will and Testament’ templates you can download or you can buy one at a stationery shop. Fill out the document, which will include your full name and address, age and ID number. It will also ask you to confirm that you are not performing the task of writing your will under duress (that is, being coerced by anyone). State that it is your final and last will and testament and overrides any previous documentation, codicil (modifications to a will) or existing wills.
2. Choose an executor
This will be the person responsible for carrying out the duties and directions stated in your will. This can either be a spouse, a parent or a reliable and trustworthy friend. Make sure the person is able to be objective and will carry out your wishes even if they don’t agree with them. Before selecting this person, check with them that they are comfortable to be your executor. It is also important you select an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to carry out your wishes for any reason.
3. Select your heirs
This could be your spouse, life partner, children or other relations. Identify each of these beneficiaries clearly, stating their full names.
4. Identify a guardian for dependents
If you have children, identify the person to whom you would like to grant guardianship until your children are adults or of legal age to be self-sufficient. If you do not select a guardian, this will end up being a decision made in court. Before you select a guardian, discuss the responsibility with the people you would like to appoint.
5. List and divide your property
Create a list of your assets, both material and sentimental. This includes real estate, bank accounts, retirement funds, tangible assets, stocks and bonds. Decide on the beneficiaries of each of your assets.
6. Sign your will
Initial each page of your will and sign it in the presence of a commissioner of oath and two witnesses for authenticity purposes.
7. Get witnesses
Ask two trusted witnesses over the age of 14 years to initial each page and sign your will. This cannot be anyone on your beneficiary list.