Don’t let your estate planning end up in court

20 Feb 2018

Posted on January 30, 2018 in Financial Planning

The legal battle unfolding between the brother and former attorney of the late springbok rugby player, Joost van der Westhuizen, and his estranged wife, Amor Vittone, around his last will and testament brings to light the importance of estate planning if any further tragedy and angst is to be prevented following the death of a family member.

The validity of the will is of the utmost importance when it comes to the winding up of an estate, says Alida Brink, a Fiduciary specialist at Old Mutual Wealth.

"In South Africa, the Wills Act stipulates that, in order for a will to be legally binding, a will must be valid and lawful, which means a number of requirements must be adhered to. This includes the will being signed in the presence of two witnesses, with the testator/testatrix' signature appearing on each individual page. If a will is deemed invalid the estate will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act," says Brink.

In the case of Joost van der Westhuizen, his last will in 2015 was declared invalid given the document was signed by his former attorney - who also drafted the will and acted as the Commissioner of Oaths - given he was too weak from motor neuron disease to sign the updated will. This resulted in the will van der Westhuizen and Vittone jointly drew up in 2009 being legal binding, and ultimately culminating in the imminent court case to dispute this.

She says that, especially in the case of ultra-high-net-worth individuals - an unclear or poorly drafted will can result in years of fighting around how an estate should be divided. "This often results in the interpretation of an unclear or badly drafted will having to be settled in court, which can be costly in itself," concludes Brink.

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