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Why is it important to update your will?

It is important that your will is updated regularly to reflect any changes that may have taken place in your life.

23 January 2015 · Staff Writer

A will is a legal document that sets out your intentions for your assets upon the event of your death. It is important that your will is updated regularly to reflect any changes that may have taken place in your life. You can update your will at any time. The latest signed, valid copy of your will is the one that will be used upon your death. It is advised that you update or re-evaluate your will every three or four years or in the event of a big change in your situation.
According to Standard Bank's website, the changes that may lead to you needing to change your will include if you get married or divorced, if you have a baby, or if you purchase a new asset, such as a car or a house.
Changes in relationships:
You may have gotten married, had a child or formed a new relationship, meaning that there are new people that you have to make provisions for in your will. Past relationships may also change and deteriorate over time, leaving people that you now wish to exclude from your will.
Calvin Ndlovu, head of operations at FNB Home Loans, says: "When drafting a will, it should be done based on existing circumstances. This means that current beneficiaries, and not potential future beneficiaries or assets that might be acquired, must be included in the will. Therefore, wills need to be updated as and when the individual's circumstances change."
Name a guardian for your children:
If you have children it is important to name a guardian for them in your will. This ensures that your children are looked after by the person who you believe is best suited to the task and not someone who is appointed by the court. This can be revised or changed once your children have reached 18 or if there are changes in circumstances.
Revise heirs and executors:
It is a good idea to revise the list of heirs, representatives, guardians, trustees and executors mentioned in your will and people may die meaning they cannot benefit from the will or move away, or carry out the duties you assigned to them. Ndlovu explains: "Beneficiaries might change, most notably due to marriage, with the birth of a child or with the death of an existing beneficiary."
Changes to your estate:
People's life situations change over time. Your estate may increase or decrease, and your will needs to reflect this change, allocating the additional assets to the desired people or redistributing the division of assets if the estate as decreased. Changes to your estate can include buying or selling property, starting a business, or new insurance policies that you have taken out.
Ndlovu reveals: "Asset values might increase and existing provisions might not adequately deal with the different assets that form part of an individual's estates."
Changes in health:
If you are diagnosed with a degenerative or terminal disease it is important to make sure that all your affairs are in order. If at any time you can be classed as unfit to make decisions regarding your estate during the course of the disease, you need to ensure that everything is in order so that your wishes are carried out after your death, and there are no grounds for the will to be contested.
Appointing an executor:
Nedbank highlights the importance of assigning an executor to your estate. This is the person who will ensure that the terms laid out in your will are carried out. Situations may change, so it is important to ensure that the appointed executor is still able to carry out their duties upon your death. If they are unable to, you may need to appoint a new executor.
Reporting a deceased estate in South Africa
According to the South African Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, a deceased estate comes into existence when a person dies and leaves behind property and/or a document that is a will or is intended as a will. Once this has been established, the estate must be administered and distributed.
The estate of a deceased person needs to be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days of the date of death. The Administration of Estates Act of 1965 specifies the procedure that must be followed when administering a deceased estate.
For more information on the reporting the estate of a deceased click here
If a person dies without leaving behind a will, they die intestate. In a situation like this, your estate is divided how the government sees fit, with your closest relative and dependents being the beneficiaries of your will. It is important to draw up a will to ensure that your estate is divided in the manner that you see fit. For more information on getting your estate in order click here
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