If you die intestate (without having written a Will), your estate will be distributed “per stirpes”.
This means that your spouse and children get one equal share each with an additional share to your spouse.
In the absence of spouse and children, there are per stirpes formulae that will eventually find beneficiaries amoungst your siblings, parents, grandparents, grand children etc.
Your minor children’s shares will go into the Guardian’s Fund to be administered for their benefit by the Master of the High Court.
You can get a will from your bank at no or very little charge. The reason they do this is to appoint themselves as executors and earn executors fees when you die. Be aware that their executorship is impersonal in the extreme.
On the gross value of the assets (i.e. ignoring liabilities)
On income received by the estate after death
When writing your will, make sure you consider all eventualities. For instance, you and your entire family could be killed in a single accident.
You and your spouse can write separate wills or a joint will. We prefer to keep them separate and this at least saves the confusion from which the Master’s office sometimes suffers over the difference between a joint will and a massed estate.
Do not mass your estate with that of your spouse, it causes unnecessary complications.
Do not forgive any debts in your will – that leads to unnecessary CGT payable on the amount forgiven. Rather bequeath approximately that amount of money to the person who owes you the debt. You can revise your will as the debt changes.
State whether you wish to be cremated or buried.
You may appoint your spouse as executor, but remember that the last thing they are going to want to do is act in that capacity after having lost you.
Rather use a professional such as a director of Harbour and Associates Inc, who has acted as executor for other estates. Dealing with the Master’s office requires experience and acting as an Executor requires a high degree of sensitivity to the survivors.
Sign your will in full on every page in front of two witnesses who must also sign in full on every page (although full signatures are not strictly necessary any more).
Ensure that the witnesses are not people who are mentioned in any way in the will.
Don’t forget to date the signatures.
Give the will to your executor for safe keeping.
Should you wish to make an appointment, please feel free to visit Derek’s diary and book a time that suits you.
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