Laws of Eve | Preparing a will: the basic steps
Many persons put off preparing a will because they consider it to be a complex legal document that requires the use of special language and the knowledge of laws that are difficult to understand. While some wills must be skillfully drafted due to the number and types of assets that are being disposed of, the number of beneficiaries and the contingencies that must be included in them, other wills can be easily drafted using the following basic steps.
To begin, create a list that includes all assets, for example, land with volume and folio numbers, bank accounts, including the names of the financial institutions and the account numbers, insurance policies that have estate as beneficiaries, including the name of the insurance company, shares, and the names of the companies in which they are held, jewellery, paintings, etc.
The location of titles, insurance policies, share certificates, and other proofs of ownership of assets, for example, in a locked drawer, a safe, a bank vault, etc.
The persons who are to receive gifts, that is, beneficiaries, including their relationship to you, so that they can be easily identified.
The names, addresses, and occupations of two trusted persons to be executors.
The name, address, and occupation of any person who is to be appointed as the legal guardian of minor children.
If a typewriter or computer and printer are not accessible, a handwritten will is acceptable.
Although no specific form of words are needed, the following phrases are usually seen in a will:
- "This is the last will and testament of me, ...". Insert the full name of testator, including aliases, e.g. Jane Doe, otherwise known as Jane Mary Doe.
- "I appoint ...". Insert the name, address, and occupation of executor or guardian to be my executor or guardian.
- "I give and devise ..." .Describe any real property that is being given away, the name or names of the beneficiaries and the proportions in which they are to share the property.
- "I give and bequeath ...". Describe any personal property, such as cash at bank, jewelry, etc. and the name of the beneficiary.
- A residuary clause: "I give devise and bequeath the rest, remain, and residue of my estate . . .". This takes care of any property that is not specifically listed and the name of the beneficiary needs to be stated.
- "In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this [insert the date]" And is followed by a space for the signature of the testator. This is the signing clause for the testator.
- "Signed by the said [insert the name of the testator] as and for her last will and testament in the presence of us both being present at the same time, who at her request and in her presence and in the presence of each other, have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses" . To be followed by spaces for two witnesses to sign, for their names, addresses and occupations to be written. This is the signing clause for the two witnesses.
The signing of the will, especially the order in which the testator and witnesses sign, is very important. The testator must sign the will in the presence of both witnesses, and then each witness must sign the will in the presence of the testator.
It is important to ensure that the signing clauses are not on a separate page from the body of the will, that the will is dated and that each page is initialed by all of the persons who signed.
Before safely storing the will, make a copy, put it in a sealed envelope along with the list showing the location of titles and other important documents, then write on that envelope where the original will is kept. You may give that sealed envelope to a close relative or one of your executors so that he or she will know where to locate your will once you pass away.
These steps are not a substitute for legal advice from an attorney-at-law of your choice and will be different for a testator who is unable to write or is blind or illiterate.