Statistics indicate that approximately 86% of South Africans do not have wills.

The risks of not having a properly drafted will are immeasurable and can impact heavily on your family. Here are five consequences of not having a will:

Assets won’t be distributed properly

There could be delays in dealing with your estate, which could affect your family if they are relying on their inheritance for an income. With no will, beneficiaries of your estate will be determined by the law, who will decide which relatives your possessions go to, and how it will split up. This means that your some of your possessions could even be given to someone in your family who you did not want to benefit.

Your partner could be left with nothing

 If you live with someone, but are not married to them, the law will not necessarily recognise your “common-law spouse” as a beneficiary of your estate, unless you have left a will naming them as a beneficiary.

Your estate could face claims

If you are divorced and pay maintenance to a former spouse or children from a previous marriage, your estate could face big claims unless you have provided for maintenance in a validly drafted and executable will.

Your children might not get what is theirs

If you have minor children and die without a will, anything they are entitled to receive will be held in the Guardian’s Fund until they turn 18. The money is invested with the Public Investment Commission, where it earns interest for the beneficiaries. The fund can be accessed by the people raising the children when they apply for maintenance money. People who claim must be able to prove that they are responsible for raising the children, and must also give full details of the child’s expenses. 

Your children could be held in custody of the state

If one of the parents die, the surviving parent will simply continue as the guardian of the minor child. If both parents die, and no guardian has been appointed in the will, any interested person may apply to court to be appointed as the guardian. Although it is good practice to appoint a guardian of minor children in a will, there is no legal requirement to do so. The court will make the appointment after considering a number of issues, most importantly what it considers to be in the best interests of the child.

Tip: “It is of great importance to have an individual with the appropriate knowledge and proficiency to draw up your will based on your specific needs,” says Estelle Scholtz-Mare, Head of Marketing in Momentum’s Financial Wellness and Planning division.

“Confusing or unclear instructions can lead to challenges and legal action from people who may feel that they are not getting what they should, and could result in increased costs for your estate in terms of any potentially unnecessary legal fees, estate duty or income tax. Over Wills Week, Momentum encourages South Africans to take time to speak to lawyers, financial planners and financial advisers about the importance of having a well-drafted will,” concludes Scholtz-Mare.

For more information on wills, or to contact an adviser who can help you set up a will, visit: momentum.co.za