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[TOP STORY] 12 September marks the start of (free) Wills Week

SIMON BROWN: I’m chatting with Brandon Garbutt. He is Capital Legacy’s MD. Brandon, I appreciate the time today. September is Wills Month and, most importantly, next week is Wills Week. We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, the stat that really stands out is that more than 70% of South Africans don’t have a will, which means when you pass away it just becomes a complicated mess.

BRANDON GARBUTT: Yes. Simon. First of all, thanks a lot for the time and the space to be able to talk to you and the listeners and readers. This has been Capital Legacy’s mission for the last 10 years: to make sure that more South Africans actually have an up-to-date, signed will in safe custody. As you’ve just mentioned, that stat is astronomical and really scary when you put it as a number. I don’t think people really understand the consequences, which I’m sure we’re going to get into just now, of not having a will in place when it comes to your passing and what you want to do with either the distribution of your assets or just looking after your kids – especially if they’re minors.

This has really been a passion of ours for the past 10 years – of not making sure [people’s] wills are done, but of actually educating people as to the importance.

SIMON BROWN: …obviously a will is what I want done with my assets after my passing. Absent of a will, who makes that decision? Is it the Master of the [High] Court? Is it the executor?

BRANDON GARBUTT: Going back to the first statement, I always say, ‘Why haven’t people done wills?’ and I always say South Africans have a Superman complex where ‘it’s never going to happen to me’. People don’t wake up in the morning and go, ‘Oh, let’s get my will done’.

The importance around why we’re trying to educate people is [that] if you pass away without a will, you pass away as what we call ‘intestate’. What happens then is the Master will then appoint an outside executor. Now remember, the executor stands in basically as the person who has passed away, to say how these assets will be distributed. And if you have someone who’s appointed, who doesn’t know the family, doesn’t know the history, doesn’t know the the minors, it’s very difficult to distribute [the assets] because you don’t know the history of the family, and what you might have wanted is not what this outside executive is going to going to do.

Also effectively, if you don’t have a will in place, the assets have to be distributed by law in South Africa – which is the law of succession. That’s a stipulated line of succession in terms of the way the assets will be distributed, and may not be what your intention was.

[The assets] might go to a family member that you didn’t want them to. But unfortunately that’s why a will is so important because, remember, that’s the last time you can say, ‘this is what I want to see happen to my estate when I actually go’.

And that’s why [when you] set up a will you get to put in there who you actually want as the executor, who you actually want as the guardian to look after minors, if you have them. That’s why it’s so important.

SIMON BROWN: Then there’s the next point, and I’ve always talked about it. The will is the important component, and that’s around your assets and your wishes and the like.

And then there is what I’ve referred to as a ‘letter for when I’m dead’.  Of course, moving into the modern age it becomes digital these days. But those are things – for example passwords, my social media accounts. I might have Bitcoin in some dodgy exchange that no one’s ever heard of. And even just [whether] I want to be cremated. This can go into a will, but then changing it becomes a process. It’s much easier to have it as sort of outside the will, something that you can manage.

BRANDON GARBUTT: Yes. What we actually encourage people to do is watch your will. What we really hate at Capital Legacy is where guys always want to overcomplicate wills. And they say oh, it’s because I’ve got such a large estate. It doesn’t actually have to be that way. A will can be very simple in terms of the way you want to distribute your assets.

What I often encourage people to do is to have a page of ‘last wishes’.

Now last wishes are not legally binding, but at least it gives guidance to the executor in terms of how you’d want things to be done – things such as family heirlooms, paintings, jewellery, your passwords as you’ve just mentioned now from a crypto point of view, which is a large grey area at the moment, especially with Sars.

Part of the whole process of doing your will is then to obviously attach your last wishes, to say: ‘These things, which don’t form my large assets such as property and vehicles and cash assets and things, are actually really important to me’. It just guides executors to say the deceased would like this possession to go to this person.

It’s a [reality] that, when you wind up estates, family feuds happen. It’s not actually the large things that they fight over, it’s these small items. It comes down to things like a coffee table that’s the big fight. It’s not about the distribution of the assets, it’s about the coffee table.

That’s why, when you’re doing a will, it’s so important to have [one], and then just guide us with the ‘last wishes’.

SIMON BROWN: Yes. Those things have sentimental value, actual real value.

I mentioned up front it’s Will Month in September. Next week, starting Monday, it is Wills Week where participating firms essentially will draft a will for you for no charge.

BRANDON GARBUTT: A hundred percent. The Law Society launched Will Week as a fantastic initiative whereby you can go to any law firm that subscribes to Wills Week and they will draft the will for you at no cost. We, as I said, applaud the initiative.

But at Capital Legacy is we said maybe a week’s a bit too short, so we’ve actually championed Wills Month where we just encourage people [who’ve] been procrastinating [drawing up] a will, this is the month to actually do it. You should be doing your will at any time to get it done; but we are really kind of promoting, educating and saying if you’re going to do your will, this year in 2022, September’s the month to do it. You’ll see a lot of campaigns around education about the will to get people to, as I say, tick this off on your checklist and say ‘this is done’ as part of your financial planning.

SIMON BROWN: Yes. Get it in place, make sure. No one’s waking up the morning planning to die, but unfortunately that is ultimately what will happen. We need the will in place.

We’ll leave it there. That’s Capital Legacy MD, Brandon Garbutt. We really appreciate the time today.

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