Estate planning is a complex area of financial planning that requires expertise in financial, legal and tax sectors. Estate planning is the process of creating and managing a programme that is designed to create and protect your wealth, and which ensures that your intended legacy is executed and distributed as per your wishes after your death. When drafting your estate plan, you need to consider the following questions:
Estate planning is a process that changes as your personal circumstances change. A review can be triggered by an adoption, birth, death, divorce, marriage, sale of property, or any other event that affects how you wish to structure your legacy. As personal circumstances change, different tools and strategies may need to be used in the estate plan to mitigate costs and ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.
Estate planning is a highly-specialised area of financial planning and requires the involvement of an advisor and/ or an advocate who has expertise in the legislative, tax and financial intricacies of all its aspects including: wills, trusts, insurance, retirement funds, matrimonial property regimes, donations, bequests, business succession planning and taxes. It is advisable to include a spouse, partner or family member in the process to ensure that someone close to you knows of your wishes and intentions.
The primary goal of any estate plan is to protect a person’s wealth while they are still alive, and to ensure that the maximum amount of their wealth can be transferred to their beneficiaries after they pass away. In doing this, the estate planning process should:
Over and above a valid last will and testament, there are a number of other estate-planning tools that can be used to ensure the smooth winding up of one’s earthly affairs:
If one considers the size of one’s online presence, it makes sense to draft what has been termed a ‘digital will’, to ensure that your online affairs are terminated properly after your death. Your digital affairs would include your online bank accounts, blog spots, chat rooms, email accounts, Facebook, Instagram, loyalty programs, music, online subscriptions, photographs, saved documents, Twitter, as well as business and personal communications. Although not a legally-recognised document, a digital will allows you to express your wishes as to how these facilities should be managed and closed after your death. Although the executor appointed in your will is responsible for winding up your estate, it is possible to appoint an ‘online executor’ who would be responsible for closing down your digital kingdom. This would entail providing that person with a list of all the online sites, login credentials, passwords and links that he/she needs to ensure they can adhere to your wishes.
Another instrument that can be effective in winding up your affairs is a letter of wishes, which is a non-binding letter intended to sit in conjunction with your will. Its purpose is to provide guidance to executors, trustees and family members, and to set out your thought process either, at the time of making the will or at a later date. A letter of wishes can become the most important tool in assisting your executors and trustees in reaching sensible early decisions in line with your specific wishes – speaking out where a will cannot. A letter of wishes can be key to assisting your executors to manage family expectations, the family business, wealth, and general family dynamics for many years.
such as the drafting of a living will. The purpose of a living will is to guide your family and doctors, and comes into effect if you are in a medical state from which you cannot recover and are no longer able to make decisions. Essentially, a living will is a declaration of your non-consent to artificial life support in the event that you’re unable to communicate your wishes when dying. The living will can be made by anyone over the age of 18 years who is of sound mind. Bear in mind that living wills are not yet recognised in SA statutory law. However, in terms of Section 12 of our Constitution, ‘everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity’, which includes the right to have control over one’s own body. The law recognises a patient’s right to accept or decline treatment. The living will does not form part of one’s last will and testament and is a separate document which your loved ones should be aware of and know the location of in the event of tragedy. A living will can be ignored by the family and attending doctors if there is the remotest chance of recovery. It is advised that anyone who has a living will should tell their family and friends about it to avoid an uncomfortable surprise at a time of great distress.
Although many clients intend to be organ donors, very few people proactively build this into their estate plan. Organ transplants are now so successful that up to seven lives can be saved from each donor, and the sight of two more people can be restored. Registration with the Organ Donation Foundation can be done online at www.odf.org.za or by phoning 0800 22 66 11. Anyone under the age of 70 who is in good health can enrol as an organ donor; anyone under the age of 18 will need parental permission. The kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, corneas, bone, bone marrow and skin are examples of some of the organs used. It is advisable that you discusses your wishes with family and loved ones to avoid any trauma and delay at the critical time. Your wishes can be recorded in your letter of wishes or via the existence of a donor card.
Estate planning is so much more than just drafting a will. It’s about creating a legacy that is indelibly you. By preparing today you ensure that, in the aftermath of your passing, your loved ones can spend time celebrating your life and appreciating the legacy that you gifted them.
Complete our online Estate planning tool and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our Financial Advisors will contact you to contact a full estate plan.