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Why everyone should have a Will & what happens if you die without one

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None of us want to think about dying – or what will happen to our family when we’re gone – but planning for our death by writing a Will is one of the most important things we’ll ever do.

“People have this impression that drafting your Will is costly, time-consuming and basically just a hack,” says CEO of Capital Legacy, Alex Simeonides. “But if you follow a few basic guidelines, it’s far easier than you think and can save your family time and money, as well as make sure your hard-earned money lands up with the people you want it to end up with.” Simeonides shared the five questions he gets asked most often.

Why do I need a Will & what happens if I die without a Will?

A Will is a legal document that does more than just outline who inherits the family heirlooms – it covers everything from assets like houses and cars, to pension pay-outs and investments. If you die without a Will, you die ‘intestate’ and your possessions are distributed by the State, which could tie your estate up in red tape for months (or years!).  There’s also no guarantee that your beneficiaries will get the funds when they need them – your kids’ school fees may not be paid, or your spouse may not be able to make the bond repayments on the house to keep a roof over their heads. The bottom line: dying without a Will means possibly leaving your loved ones high and dry.

Who should I appoint as executor of my Will?

The person named in the Will to administer your estate is called the executor. In short, they’re there to make sure your wishes are honoured after your death. It’s important to choose someone who you know is up to the task, or it’s likely to cause delays. Winding up an estate is time-consuming and requires a degree of financial and legal know-how so it’s worth considering appointing an independent person who may settle your affairs quickly and affordably. Make sure the wording of your Will empowers your executor to help settle bills and take care of other admin tasks, no matter how big or small, such as notifying municipalities and tax authorities and even paying your rates and taxes.

What costs will my family have to cover when I die?

Most people are familiar with funeral insurance, which pays out to help cover the costs of a funeral. But there are a lot of other expenses that need to be paid when you die. For starters: Executor Fees, Testamentary Trust Fees, Conveyance Attorney Fees, and Non-Estate Asset Fees. These can pile up and will need to be paid out of your estate, or your family will have to cough up the cash. Even simple estates must cover taxes and death duties. Ask your advisor for a list of fees your family can expect to pay when your estate is being executed so you know exactly what’s involved.

Why do I need a Will & what happens if I die without a Will

Where should I keep my Will?

Your executor is going to need your original Will to wind up your estate, so it’s important to keep it safe and accessible for when you die. Keeping it under lock and key doesn’t help if you’re the only one who knows the combination to the padlock. Consider keeping the original in a water- and fire-proof box as well as storing signed copies with your executor or an independent party. A ‘What To Do When I Die’ file can contain instructions to your family on who to contact and where to find important documents should you pass away unexpectantly.

Will having a Will stop family members from fighting over my possessions after I die?

Making sure your Will is properly drafted by a professional and is valid is one of the best ways you can prevent your family fighting over your possessions after your death. When a Will isn’t clearly drafted, it opens it up for contestation in court by any beneficiary who may feel they’ve been unfairly treated by it. Of course, it’s up to you who you want to leave your assets to, but make sure there aren’t any reasons your family members can contest the Will – such as that it wasn’t properly witnessed, you weren’t of sound mind when you signed it or there was possible coercion by another beneficiary.

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