What should one do to ensure that your affairs are in order when you die?

The following simple steps, if followed, will give you peace of mind and will also assist your loved ones, when you are no longer there.

1.  Make a valid will and keep it updated.

 If you are older than 16 you can make a valid will to state how your assets should be divided according to your wishes.  Your will should be updated after mayor events in your life such as marriage, birth, divorce and death of beneficiaries.

To be valid your will must be drawn up and signed correctly. It is important to obtain professional legal advice in this regard.

Nominate a professional and trusted executor who has experience in deceased estate administration and who would be able to administer your estate correctly and efficiently. If you prefer that a trusted friend or family member be appointed as executor, you may appoint the professional executor as co-executor to assist the family member or friend who is also appointed.

2.  Keep important documents secure.

Keep copies of important documents and original documents in a secure place and tell your family or someone you trust where they are kept.

Important documents include the following:
(a) Original signed will
(b) Original title deeds, original share certificates and original vehicle registration documents. If these documents are lost, there will be additional charges to pay and red tape and procedures to follow to obtain duplicate original copies from the authorities.
(b)Original identity document, marriage certificate, ante-nuptial contract, divorce orders, birth certificates of minors, death certificates of pre-deceased spouses and beneficiaries.
(c) Recent income tax returns and your income tax number.

3.  Keep a list of your bank account numbers, investments and policies and the institutions where they are held.

4.  Keep a list of liabilities such as loans, bond account numbers and other debts.

5.  Keep a list of names and contact details of your accountant/tax practitioner,  insurance broker and beneficiaries mentioned in your will.

6.  Make sure that you appoint beneficiaries on your life policies, pension fund or retirement policies at the institutions where these funds are held. 

The beneficiaries of these policies or funds are nominated at the institutions where the funds are held and not in your will.

7. Keep a list of debit orders and what they are being deducted for.

8. Consider drafting a living will.

A living will instructs your medical practitioner about the continuation or not of medical treatment when there is no prospect of recovering from an illness and when you are no longer able to give those instructions.

9.  Appointing guardians for your minor children.  

 A guardian for your minor children can be appointed in your will.

10. Discuss your will and living will with your family and beneficiaries.

This will assist your family to understand what your wishes are and your reasons therefor.

For professional legal advice, contact Bardine Hall at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc. on 041-5019800.

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