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Live for today, plan for tomorrow with a last will and testament

While we're busy living life, working, playing, making friends, falling in love and enjoying every moment, it's easy to ignore less entertaining responsibilities and to push planning for the future aside. It's for this reason that many of us, including most people under the age of 30, don't have a last will and testament in place.

While considering our own mortality and finalising our last wishes may seem like an unpleasant task, drawing up a will is more than a nice-to-have - it's a necessity. Especially when one considers the impact that dying without a will can have on families and loved ones. Which is why if you don't yet have a last will and testament, drawing one up needs to become a top priority for you.

What is a last will and testament?

A will is a legal document that must comply with the Wills Act No. 7 of 1953. It must be in writing and properly dated, witnessed and signed, and state how and to whom you would like your assets distributed after your death. Having a will allows you to name your chosen beneficiaries and appoint an executor to make sure that your last wishes are carried out according to your stipulations. A will can also act as a form of closure for your family and loved ones, giving them some comfort and support during a challenging time.

While many people make the mistake of thinking that only those of a certain age need to draw up a will, the fact is that any person over the age of 16 can and should have a will in place, it doesn’t matter how small their assets. In fact, drawing up a will can be a valuable resource with regards to your financial portfolio, giving you the opportunity to assess your level of cover in terms of life insurance or funeral insurance, and to make any adjustments as you see fit. In this way, planning for your family's future can be a vital tool in managing your own finances in the present.

Why is having a will important?

More than simply giving you an idea of your current level of funeral cover, or distributing your assets between your family and friends, a last will and testament will make sure any other responsibilities you have are taken care of. These could include naming a guardian for minor children, choosing a caretaker for your pets, or appointing an executor or trustee to oversee the division of your assets to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

If you choose not to put a will in place, or if you die before drawing up a will, your family could be left with the burden of severe administrative problems and may suffer significant financial losses as a result. Additionally, if you die without naming your heirs, or detailing how you want your assets to be distributed, your possessions and estate will be divided for you according to the Intestate Succession Act, No 81 of 1987. While your assets will still be distributed amongst your family members, and will not go to the state (as is often mistakenly thought), your loved ones could be left at a significant disadvantage, particularly in terms of estate duty, income tax, VAT and capital gains tax. That is why having a will in place can help to relieve any potential financial burdens and see your family and loved ones inherit your assets according to your personal wishes and not just a formula prescribed by the law.

How do I draft a will?

It is possible to draft a will yourself according to widely-sold templates, as long as it meets certain legal requirements. However, if your will involves factors like the complicated distribution of assets, extended family or beneficiaries, the naming of guardianship, or dependents or spouses from multiple marriages, it is recommended to get help from a financial advisor, legal advisor or trusted company.

If you already have funeral insurance with Sanlam and you’re considering having a last will and testament drawn up, Sanlam is uniquely qualified to help. Should you choose to distribute your assets and put your final plans in place with the help of our Wills, Trusts and Estates department, our specialists will help you to set up and store your will and act as your executors to ensure your wishes are carried out in accordance with your stipulations. You can also use the opportunity to assess your current level of funeral cover and adjust your Family Funeral Plan accordingly.

While the need for a last will and testament may seem a long way into the future, the fact is that none of us can know what tomorrow may bring - and having appropriate plans in place will help you take care of your family and loved ones when they need it most.

You've already begun the process with an Sanlam online Family Funeral Plan - now let Sanlam help you continue planning for the future with a comprehensive last will and testament. Because in challenging circumstances, funeral policies and wills are more than just documents - they're a vital source of financial support and comfort and your family will be eternally grateful.

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