The importance of a will for your children

Posted on September 13th, 2018

Having a will can secure your children’s financial safety and future.

The importance of a will for your children

Planning for your family’s future is not only about making sure your personal property is covered, or finding ways to grow your money and build your wealth so your children can benefit from a financially stable future. It’s also about planning for any unforeseen circumstances, making sure that you have made provision for the very best care for your children if you are no longer there. This means having a valid will prepared.

ALSO SEE: 3 easy steps to help protect your child’s financial future

The financial experts at Hero Life answer your most pressing questions: 

Is it difficult to draw up a will, and why is it so important?

Drawing up a will is not nearly as complex as most people think it is − especially when you consider the importance of having one. Regardless of the value of your assets, having a will in place reduces anxiety for the family left behind and ensures all your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Your will also protects your children as you can appoint a guardian for them when you die, preventing them from having to go under the care of the state, if both their parents pass.

Should one do a will through a bank/financial advisor?

Drawing up a will can be as easy as downloading a basic template from the internet or going through an online will-drafting process. In more complex cases (like when there are ex-spouses, partners, or children from previous relationships, disabled dependents, a special-needs trust or any other specific wishes to be implemented), it is preferable to have a practising attorney or reputable bank draw up the will. This ensures the wishes of the testator (the person who has written and executed a last will and testament) are set out correctly, and it complies with all the legal requirements.

Can the executor be a member of the family?

An executor is the appointed person (or company) in your will who will ensure that your wishes as per your last will and testament, are honoured. If you don’t appoint an executor, the court will choose someone. However, you can nominate a member of your family to be an executor on your will. If you nominate a spouse, for example, note that in most cases this isn’t a good idea since your spouse could be emotionally under stress on your passing and, therefore, not ready to make important financial decisions as an executor.

If you do decide to nominate a family member, it’s a good idea to nominate an attorney as co-executor to deal with the legal issues. Also note that if the court is of the opinion that your chosen executor doesn’t have the necessary skills to act on your behalf, they may choose someone to assist your appointed executor.

What are typical mistakes people make when drawing up a will?

For parents, the biggest mistake would be not to nominate a legal guardian(s) for their children, and therefore leave it to the Court to decide. Other typical mistakes include leaving out specific assets from the will, or forgetting to update it as circumstances change. Most importantly though, the biggest mistake is not having a will at all.

How often or when should a will be updated?

Every time your circumstances change, for example you get divorced, remarried, or have another child, you should update your will. While you’re at it, also look at your insurance policies and make sure the nominated beneficiaries of these policies are updated to reflect your wishes.

Who needs a copy of the will?

If your will was drafted by an attorney or bank, it’s always best to store it with them. If you decide to store the will yourself, it’s a good idea to make up one file of all your important documents, including your will, as this will make it easier for the people you leave behind. Add to this file a list of all your investments, assets, contact details of your executor and any other important documents you think your loved ones will need. Make sure this file, along with your will, are safely stored and that your loved ones and the person you have nominated as your executor are informed of where this file is stored.

What are the worst-case scenarios if you don’t have a will, or if it hasn’t been updated?

The worst-case scenario if you pass away without a will, is that your assets and money will be divided as per the provision of the Intestate Succession Act. Although the provisions as per the Act are usually fair in that your assets and money will be transferred to your spouse and children, it doesn’t mean that your assets will go to the person of your choice.

Not having a will can also mean that it takes longer for your estate to be wound up as the court needs to appoint an executor and a legal guardian (if the other parent is also no longer alive). Unnecessary delays in dealing with your estate could affect your family if they rely on your income.

The same holds true if you don’t update your will as your circumstances change. You want to ensure that your preferred people are being looked after. If you neglect to update your will, it could mean your estranged spouse receives a portion of your assets, which might not have been what you had in mind.