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Where there’s a will

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Brokers and financial advisers who have dealt with death claims for intestate estates – or where a will has been poorly drawn up – will understand when the nightmare that results. For loved ones in their state of grief, having to deal with complications relating to guardianship, marital contracts, taxes, trusts, etc. is already a burden. Now imagine all those things with no will in place.

To anyone assisting clients with estate planning or life insurance, the will is a key component
of the process – or at least, it should be. There are some extremely important functions of a will that your clients should be aware of. Some of them are minor and some major, but they’re often overlooked.

Here are 10 important things to bear in mind:

  1. Only an original, signed will is valid

  2. Make sure there’s a professional co-executor. The High Court may decline the appointment of a friend or family member for one reason or another. If this happens, it’s important to have an impartial executor in place to oversee the provisions of the will

  3. A will only deals with life cover that pays to the deceased’s estate, thus the wills and the life cover beneficiary nominations must complement each other

  4. Check that there is a testamentary trust in place for minor children’s inheritances, otherwise their money will go to the Government Guardian’s Fund

  5. Guardian nominations are only applicable where there is no surviving or legally appointed parent

  6. Also, anyone who is nominated as a guardian should be aware of the request and happy to accept such an appointment

  7. No one can inherit until all debts, fees, taxes and marital contract claims are settled, no matter what the will says – or even if there is no will

  8. A will can be used to record a person’s last wishes, but these are not enforceable. However, they are likely to be honoured

  9. Organ donors must be registered with the Organ Donor Foundation. Simply including a wish in the will to donate your organs is not enough

  10. A will should be kept as simple as possible and updated regularly, as your client’s circumstances change

Finally, a will can be expensive to administer. There are insurance policies available that pay the costs of administration, leaving the estate intact for the beneficiaries. Be sure to offer your clients this option when helping with their estate planning.