Thinking about death can be scary. Thinking about your sudden death when you have children is even scarier. This is a scenario no parent wants to think of, but passing away without a will in place can have dire consequences for your loved ones, especially your minor children. Having a will in place could spare your family a great deal as they attempt to navigate a new way of life without you.
Below we discuss what can happen to minor children if you die without a will in South Africa.
A will is a legal document that you have put in place that gives directions to your family members or executor of your estate on how your assets (property, finances, etc.) needs to be divided amongst family after you pass away. Having a will in place ensures that your wishes, both for your children and your estate, will be known and, assuming you have fulfilled your legal obligations, followed.
If you pass away without a will, the beneficiaries will appoint an executor who will be responsible for liquidating your assets, managing your finances and dividing the assets of your estate between your family members.
When there are children involved, the living spouse will become the children’s legal guardian. However, if both parents die at the same time, your children might be put into the care of people they don’t know.
Your minor children could also be put into the care of a nominated guardian should both parents pass away at the same time. This needs to be clearly stipulated in your will.
In your will, you can also stipulate the age at which your children should receive their inheritance. The executor of your estate can release some or all of the estate trust funds earlier, but he or she is required to release all estate trust funds on the birthday you specify as the age of inheritance in your will.
(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your specific situation, contact Cavanagh & Richards Attorneys).