Securing Your Family’s Future After Your Death

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Securing Your Family’s Future After Your Death

Ensuring that your affairs are in order after your death is important, but it is even more critical that you organise your estate before you pass if you are the parents of minor children under the age of 18.

While no one wants to think of leaving behind a young family, the consequences for them in the event of your untimely death without proper provision having been made for their future, can be traumatic. It is therefore imperative that you have a correctly drawn- up last will and testament to cover all necessary arrangements.

For parents of minors
Children under the age of 18 can be designated as beneficiaries, however they are not legally allowed to manage these assets while underaged. In such cases there are two options: appointing a guardian or guardians or activating a Testamentary Trust in your will. Failing to do so will result in assets going to the state-owned Guardian’s fund as per the Intestate Succession Act. Accessing assets from this fund is a complex and lengthy process, making it advisable to establish a Testamentary Trust to safeguard and manage the assets until the child reaches the age of 18. The will should clearly outline the beneficiaries and trustees of the Trust, who should also be the designated beneficiary of any life policies that you intend to be paid out to your child(ren).

It is also important to note that an individual’s maintenance obligations do not pass away with them, regardless of whether the minor stands to inherit or not according to the deceased will, maintenance must still be paid. If no arrangements for this have been made it could lead to serious disputes over the distribution of the deceased’s estate as the need for maintenance trumps any specifications of inheritance.

Securing your children’s financial future is paramount, but so is addressing their emotional and material needs until they come of age. Parents should identify a legal guardian who can take over the day-to-day care of their child or children if both parents should die simultaneously – it can be a family member or friend of the family but they must be both willing and able to take on the responsibility of bringing up your children.

For parents of adult children
Even with adult children, it is important to have a proper last will and testament in place that stipulates exactly how your assets should be divided between your beneficiaries and to also protect their inheritance from any current or future marriage or relationship. It is also worth making provision in your will for costs that may be required to cover administration fees in relation to the execution of your will, funeral costs and for expenses such as transferring a bond from one name to another, especially if your adult children are not immediately inheriting money.

Ensuring your last will and testament is legal and binding
One of the best ways of taking care of and supporting your children even after you have gone is by ensuring that your last will and testament is correctly drawn up. This means that beneficiaries, trustees, and executors are named and that the document is signed, dated, and witnessed. Any errors or irregularities can render your wishes null and void (beneficiaries cannot sign a will as witness, for example). Get your last will and testament drawn up by a legal professional and ensure that your family is properly taken care of, according to your wishes, after you have gone.

A blog article by: Riëtte Van Vollenstee
For more information, contact Hammond Pole Attorneys: riettevv@hammondpole.co.za

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