A Will helps your family when you are no longer there to provide for them. Any person 16 years of age and sound mind can draw up a Will. To ensure your final wishes are carried out correctly your Will must be clear, unambiguous and meet the requirements of a valid Will.

If you die without a Will you are said to die” intestate” and the rules of intestate succession will determine who gets your assets left behind. The state will divide your estate fairly, but this will take time and cost money. You can speak to a financial adviser, lawyer or banker to set up your Will. Choose a person or institution you trust and can afford.

Below are essential clauses for your Will to be effective:

The revocation clause

This clause will revoke all previous Wills and Testamentary documents (make all previous Wills and Testaments documents no longer valid). If your Will doesn’t have a revocation clause, you could end up with more than one valid Will and the two Wills would have to be interpreted at the same time– a situation that could lead to a nightmare for your executor.

The nomination clause

This nominates your executor, the person who has certain powers to manage the estate. If you don’t nominate an executor then one is appointed by the Master of the High Court to deal with your estate. This will delay the winding up of your estate. The Master will consider applications from your family, but may include a requirement that the appointed Executor is assisted by an agent.

The distribution clauses

This clause states how your estate is distributed after all your debts have been settled.

In addition to the essential clauses, your Will can have additional clauses customised to your specific circumstances and needs such as:

  • Your burial or cremation wishes
  • Nominating a substitute guardian for your minor children
  • A trust creation clause and a clause arranging the powers of your trustees if a trust is needed (usually to protect minor beneficiaries)
  • A clause authorising disposing assets not suitable for keeping in trust to the guardians of minor beneficiaries.

The winding up of your estate will have various costs:

  • Master’s fees, which are currently a maximum of R600 (depending on the size of the estate)


  • Executor’s fees
    • Which by law cannot exceed 3.5% plus VAT (3.99%) of the gross assets of the estate
    • 6% of any income, which the executor collects on behalf of your estate before it is finalised
    • Costs of any valuations, costs of advertisements in newspapers, transfer costs on property and bank charges.

Other factors to consider when drawing up your Will:

  • You should take your marital contract into account when drafting your Will to manage the possible estate duty implications on your estate. Whether you are married in community of property or are married out of community of property (with or without accrual), will have an impact on how and which assets you can bequest.
  • If you have children give careful thought as to whether or not you need a testamentary trust or not. You should also talk about who you will appoint as their legal guardian if both you and your spouse die. Ensure that you discuss this with the appointed guardians, as well as any family members who will be affected by your decision, because you don’t want your children and the appointed guardians to cope with family disputes after your death.
  • It is important to consider the liquidity, which is the cash flow of your estate, to ensure there are sufficient funds to cover all the relevant costs. If there is insufficient liquidity then the executor may be forced to sell assets in order to cover costs. You do not want your heirs to be forced to sell their home once you are gone to fund for expenses or to not receive the desired inheritances.

Remember to update your Will regularly in line with the changing circumstances of your life, such as marriage and births of children. Also remember that your death benefit from your retirement fund is by law excluded from your Will. Keep your Will in a safe place.