We don’t like to think about it but death is one of the two certainties we are guaranteed in life. The other is, of course, being taxed. Hard as it is to accumulate assets in this economy we may as well plan for what happens to our assets after our departure. Perhaps you want to leave something specific to your children. A will does that for you and today we’ll talk about how wills are registered and a few other frequently asked questions about them. The information in this article does not constitute legal advice and if so required you should consult your legal practitioner.

Where do I register a will and what are the costs associated with registering a will?

Wills are registered through lodging with the Master of the High Court and the current fee is $30. If you seek the assistance of a lawyer then you have to budget for their professional fees. These vary from practitioner to practitioner.

How long does it take?

Before registering a will, it has to be created. The length of time it takes to create a will depends on the significance of your assets. The larger the estate, the more time you want to take to structure it with an expert legal advisor. After a will is lodged with the Master, it can take 1-5 days for the registration to be confirmed.

What sort of documents are required?

For registration of a simple will, no documents are required. You do not need to provide any documents to prove ownership as that will be taken care of by the executor at the time of registering the estate.

How does it work when I die?

After your death, your will governs the management and distribution of your estate. The advantage of a will is that, while you are still alive, you can arrange for the appointment of a person to manage your estate and distribute your assets. This person is called an executor. The executor will be responsible for ensuring that the estate is registered and wound up. This is a legal process which is lengthy in time.

The executor is required to:

Publish in the Government Gazette (and in a newspaper circulating in the district where the deceased normally resided) a notice calling upon creditors to lodge claims against the estate within 30 days; and

  • Obtain sworn valuations of the assets in the estate; and
  • Sell any assets which need to be reduced to cash; and
  • calculate and make allowances for any Estate Duty which might have to be paid; and
  • lodge, within six months of appointment, a Liquidation and Distribution Account reflecting all assets and liabilities and the proposed distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries under the will or in terms of the law relating to intestate succession. In complicated estates, the Master may allow an extension of this time where circumstances warrant it.

What happens to something that I left out of my will?

If you have a left out an asset from your will the result is that your will shall only apply to part of your estate and the remaining portion of your estate which you left out is dealt with in terms of intestacy law.

It is essential that you seek advice on the process to gain a complete understanding of what your will means. Once registered you have certainty as to how your estate will be distributed.