Whether you realise it today or choose to downplay the thought, you have an estate. In fact, nearly everyone does regardless of their status and age. Your estate is everything you own. This is your car, home, clothes, laptop, cellphone and even the pen you bought last week. Other estate items you have are your savings accounts, investments, life insurance and furniture including all the personal possessions that many do not know of yet. The sad but real fact to the phenomenon of life is that, no matter how much or little you have, how large or how modest, you cannot take it with you when you die. It stays right here. So when this eventuality kicks in, and it is ‘when, and not ‘if’, who takes what and of what quantity ? Who has the rights to get their hands on your wallet and every fork in your cutlery unit? Surprisingly, to many people the thought of planning for the event of your death is seen as a taboo. But in many cases, conflicts have arisen between family members, friends and those who believed to have had spiritual relationships with the deceased. In some cases, you would find the brother would take the phone while the sister would be fighting for the charger. In unfortunate circumstances, the children of the deceased stop going to school because the funder has passed on and the deceased has not set money aside for their children in the event of the unfortunate.
Estate planning opens the eye to the fact that life is more than just some kind of pilgrimage. There is more than just the primary need to setting up a fine family and catering for their immediate needs when one is alive. Surely everyone wants to leave their loved ones with enough to feel they can do anything. By simple definition, estate planning is the process by which an individual or family arranges the transfer of assets in anticipation of death. The plan aims to preserve the maximum amount of wealth possible for the intended beneficiaries and flexibility for the individual prior to death. The subject is of paramount importance and Old Mutual Trust Namibia’s Fiduciary Specialist believes it should be part of everyone’s life. “If you spend a lifetime acquiring possessions, it makes sense to draw up a plan on how it should be distributed after your death. You should also plan to see if you have sufficient liquidity to pay for all estate costs and all claims against the estate,” said Lizette van den Elst.
Who takes what ?
When the reality above has been acknowledged, and one wants to save their family the conflicts and confusion, Lizette shares that a Will simplifies and expedites the process of winding up of a deceased estate. “If you die without a Will, you die intestate and the Laws of Intestate succession will apply to the distribution of your estate – something that can be avoided.”That means that the state through the Master of the High Court will appoint an executor on your behalf to distribute your assets. Is that the way you would like your children and loved ones to remember you? Knowing that you have a valid document in place that will ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of after your demise, is one of the greater benefits of having a Will. The peace of mind it affords is priceless.
For the entrepreneur and business mogul, continuity of business interests can be assured and controlled, either by direct bequests and/or guidelines for Executors regarding the sale thereof. “You can choose your heirs, and describe the benefits according to your own wishes. A Will is the only way in which a person can ensure that their estate will be divided according to their wishes after death.” Lizette adds that while many might think the idea of having a Will only belongs to a certain circle of a defined status, this is not the case. “It is not only the ‘rich and wealthy’ who need a Will.” The fiduciary specialist explains the contents of a Will. The nomination of a guardian for minor children is done by way of a Will. The appointment of guardians is not an estate matter, but the High Court will be guided by the last wishes of a person, as set out in his/her Last Will and Testament. The appointment of Executor and Trustees is an important part of the Will. The Executor is responsible for the winding up of the estate and for ensuring that compliance with all the provisions of the Estate Act is achieved. Should no Executor nomination exist, the Master of the High Court will, after consultation with the deceased’s family, appoint a nominee of his own choice.In addition to the extra benefits, she adds
– “The Will allows for the ability to exclude and protect an inheritance of a heir from certain legal effects, such as future marriages in community of property, or in the case of an insolvent heir, his/her creditors. Also, a well-planned (and worded) Will will help eliminate potential disputes between heirs and ensure a smooth and speedy administration process.” As a parent, a Will allows one, by way of a Testamentary Trust, to ensure protection and maintenance of minor heirs, or heirs not mentally or physically able to look after themselves. In many occurrences, those in relationships regarded as not authentic in the eyes of the law may even get a nasty surprise after they realise that they have not earned a cent from their ‘loved one’s’ estate. Namibian Laws of Intestate Succession does not recognize relationships where partners ‘live together’, as a legal union. “If you are in any relationship not recognized as a marriage by our laws, your partner will not be able to (automatically) benefit from your death, unless you draw up a valid Will appointing him/her as an heir,” said Lizette. Parallel to considering having a Will are other equally important investments that one should consider such as opening an education policy for their children, funeral cover to sort out funeral arrangements and life policy – to make provision for funds after their death.
Start today and worry no more
Individuals put off estate planning because they think they do not have enough money or assets or they are not old enough and think they have plenty of time to attend to the subject. As from today, given the choice, and you do have the choice, would you not prefer these matters to be handled privately by your family or by the courts? Would you not prefer to keep control of who receives what and when? And, if you have young children or people in your care, would you not prefer to have a say in who will raise them if you can’t? Wait no more. You can put something in place now and change it later. This is exactly the way estate planning should be done.