Why do I need a will?
Why should I take care of appointing the executor?
You only need a will if you are at all concerned about those close to you who are left behind and you have assets that you want to leave to them. After all, over and above their grief they will be saddled with finalising your financial affairs and the division and allocation of your assets (deceased estate). Dying without a will (known as “intestate”) may turn out to be a disastrous administrative mess that can take decades to resolve.
A will achieves at least two things: First, it determines who gets what in a deceased estate. The testator appoints his/her heirs. These may or may not be family members. Often a person forgets to change a will and the ex-spouse walks off with all. Often there is no will at all (intestate) and a live-in partner of 30 years gets nothing and a prodigal child gets it all. Moreover, an intestate death results in any money due to minors being paid to a state official (the Guardians Fund) for safekeeping, and the heirs are not selected by the testator but appointed in terms of antiquated legal rules.
Second, and most importantly, a will provides for the process whereby the division of the estate is to be managed – by the appointment of an executor. Countless numbers of people entrust this function to a financial institution. There they get a “free” will and are promised peace of mind. Only after the death of the testator do the unfortunate heirs discover that the financial institution has been appointed as the executor and the affairs of the deceased are now in the hands of a call-center. The call-center will charge 3.5 % of the gross value of the deceased estate and since the testator is deceased a different executor can no longer be appointed!
A “free” will is therefore not free. Moreover, the heirs can now brace themselves for years (sometimes decades) of acrimony and chaos as hours and days are spent trying to convince the call-center that (for instance) the indigent widow and children are in desperate need of cash and the estate is wealthy and cash-flush but all the bank accounts are frozen.
So, make a valid will, appoint your chosen heirs and, above all, appoint a specialist estates attorney as executor so that the process can be managed face to face dealing with a competent and sympathetic individual.
You may now realise why so many of our clients are bank officials.