Why you should consider having a Will

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Spring has sprung, bringing with it new opportunities to start afresh and improve. What better way to kick off this new season than “spring cleaning” our personal finances and taking control of the things that really matter- estate planning?

Estate planning for many households is not a priority and is often left till the very last minute (sometimes not even considered at all). For many years, vicious and ruthless fights have torn families apart, where members argue and fight over the deceased’s assets ranging from clothes, property, land and money to name a few. We hear of so many stories where for example the girl and boy child or wives are kicked out of their homes or evicted from their land when the father or spouse dies.

In most cases, family members (who are meant to protect minors) unlawfully take everything, robbing minors of their inheritance and leaving them in financial ruin many years to come. Such incidents continue to rampage through many households in Lesotho and the narrative keeps getting worse where women and girl children are still discriminated against when it comes to inheriting property or land. The transition from the patriarchal society we live in is still very slow, despite efforts by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to prohibit discrimination. The question that comes to mind is would having a Will help?

Having a Will remains a foreign concept for many households and as a result many families fail to adequately plan and document how their estates are to be handled when they die. Some families lack the knowledge, while others simply procrastinate and never come around to drawing up a Will.

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The result of this lacklustre approach is very costly, especially for the minors who are left with nothing when their parents die. So why is it important to have a Will?

The month of September is considered “National Wills Month” which aims to create awareness of why it is important to prepare a Will. A last will and testament is a document that enables you to distribute your estate, choose your heirs, appoint guardians and decide who will receive your most valuable possessions should you die.

In Lesotho, the Estates Proclamation No 19 of 1935 protects estates of the deceased, minors, mental health patients and people who are out of the country at the same time do not have lawful representatives. A last will and testament should be prepared by a legal practitioner, duly signed by two witnesses and registered with the Master of the High court. Should you die without a valid Will, your estate will dissolve intestate.

This means that your assets (clothes, furniture, money etc.) will be shared according to the rules of intestacy. So why not dedicate some time to draw up a Will and take control over your estate?

Protect your estate

Deciding how your assets are to be distributed when you die is an important part of planning your finances. Ask anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one and still faced the family feud over who inherits what, the answer will be same- DEVASTING! It is therefore important to schedule a meeting with your lawyer to discuss how you would like your affairs to be handled when you die.

This is an opportunity for you to decide who will inherit your assets, who your heirs and beneficiaries are and how your estate should be handled. It is important to ensure that your Will is duly signed by yourself and two witnesses; and lastly registered with the Master of the High Court. Also speak to your tax advisor regarding the tax implications when planning your estate.

Protect your children

If you are a parent, it is very important to draw up a Will and make the necessary arrangements that will protect your child or children (especially if they are minors) should you die i.e. benefits from your life insurance policies, property and investments. The Will must also identify a guardian (should both parents die) that will take care of your children when you are gone. When selecting this guardian it is important to take a lot of things into consideration for example, does the person have your children’s’ best interests at heart, are they trustworthy etc. The sooner you plan and prepare the better.

As our excitement levels for the new season increases, let us take time this spring to reflect on our affairs with regards to our estate planning. Let us prioritize drawing up our Wills and ensure that we have protected our loved ones should we die. Like the saying goes, “where there is a Will… there is a way”. Let’s give our loved ones a way to deal with the loss when we die by having valid Wills in place.