Many of us want to leave our affairs in good order when we die. But we don’t do a great deal about it and there are often unresolved issues left for others to deal with when we are gone. So there are a few things to look out for when you plan your estate. The first obviously is your will and while it can be a simple clear document it can also be an instrument of hurt to a family. Your will needs to be clear and simple in expression. This does two things: it leaves your heirs in no doubt of what is to happen and it is relatively quick to process.

Points to remember when drawing up your testament or will include:

Appoint an executor - This person will ensure that your last wishes in your testament will be fulfilled. You can nominate your spouse, your adult son or daughter, your lawyer or auditor or even your bank or trust company.

Appoint a guardian - If you have minor children, it is of the utmost importance that you plan for their care. Your testament gives you the opportunity to appoint someone for the loving care of your children in case of your death.

Compile a list of assets and liabilities - Make a complete list of everything you own as well as all your short- and long-term debt. Your assets include fixed property, personal belongings, vehicles, life policies and savings. Your liabilities include house bonds, bank loans or unpaid taxes. 

Appoint your heir - Make provision for your heir to receive the inheritance before any other bequests are paid out.

Consider friends, churches, educational - and charity organisations -You might decide to leave an amount or specific item to a loyal friend, a faithful worker, your favourite charity organisation or educational institution.  Make sure that you are in possession of the person’s or institution’s correct name and address for inclusion in your testament. 

Instructions regarding your burial/cremation must be set out clearly - If it is your wish to donate your organs, include this in your testament, inform your family members, and doctor about your decision.

Consult your financial advisor - It is also advisable to consult your financial advisor/lawyer regarding the compilation of your testament.

A valid testament needs to comply with the following requirements:

  • The testament has to be in written format
  • The testament must be signed in the presence of two witnesses
  • Verbal wishes have no legal influence or consequence

Remember that your testament should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated in order to consider new legal developments. Something that goes with a will is to have all your important documents stored in a way that makes them easy to find. There is nothing worse than digging through untidy drawers and cupboards to try and find information and documents.