Today’s article is not one that we like to think about and it is very seldom discussed. This does not make it any less important, actually it is probably more important than choosing a school, or even enrolling your child into school. The reason it is so often overlooked is that nobody wants to think about the fact that life my deal you a bad hand and something might happen to you and your partner, leaving your children as orphans.
I have just gotten off the phone from a very dear friend of mine who lost her father last Thursday and it got me thinking about how quickly things can change. Although he was ill for a while and they had time to prepare themselves for his passing, what happens if Death happens suddenly? When you get married, you have to have a pre-nuptial agreement, but why do they not highlight the importance of having a Will when you have children.
According to the Child Care Act, if both parents die without a will and there are no relatives or next of kin, the commissioner for child welfare of the area the child lives in will, through a magistrate, appoint someone to take care of the child. If there are relatives and a next of kin, or even godparents they aren’t automatically legal guardians. They too would need to apply to the high court for custody, and the court may not choose the person that you would have chosen. It could also leave the rest of your extended family fighting about who would be best for the children, not a situation you would ever want.
My husband and I did our Will a while ago, and it is by no means an easy task. There are so many factors that you need to consider, and it is probably one of the most important documents that you will have to compile. The easiest part of a will is deciding what will happen to your possessions, your worldly belongings. But when it comes to your children, there are a million things to consider.
Who do you trust the most to continue the journey of parenting that you have started?
It is hard enough to choose a baby sitter, to look after your children for a few hours. How do you choose someone that will look after them for a lifetime?
Who would raise your children with the same morals, standards, love and protection that you do?
We all have different ways of parenting, traits that we value above others, but this does not make any of us a better parent than the next. When thinking of someone to raise your children, you will need to make sure that the person you choose has the same mind set and will uphold the traits and values that you do.
When choosing a legal guardian for your children you need to consider whether the person you have chosen has space for your children.
I love my sister dearly and when it comes to her and her husband, they have all the boxes ticked, except for the fact that they have 3 children of their own. This would mean that they would need new cars, a new house, the kids would probably go from having their own room to sharing. Apart from this, I think 5 or 6 kids is more than they need to have to deal with.
Where do they live? Do you really want your children relocation to another country if something happened to you?
If your children have just been through a traumatic experience like losing their parents, do they really want to have to relocate to a new province, or country, where everything is different to what they are used to.
Will they be young and fit enough to look after your children?
Our parents are trusted and loved and like my sisters they tick all the boxes, but will they be young enough to take care of the children? So if you do choose your parents, ensure that you update and evaluate the situation should they be getting a little too old to take care of the kids.
Do your children and their children get along or will they be miserable with their new sibling rivalry.
When you are choosing a guardian, keep in mind that they may have their own children. Although they might be perfect in your eyes, will all the children get along? To create a situation where two of the children do not get along can be very stressful for all involved.
Who will be in control of finances?
It is a good idea to appoint two people to look after your children’s financial affairs. This will ensure that one person does not make a bad financial decision that will leave your children short of income in years to come. It will also avoid misuse of finances, circumstances change and you would hate for your children’s trust to be misused in any way.
These are all options that need to be carefully thought through, as should the unthinkable happen, you need to know that you have always done the best for your children, and that they will continue to grow into the well-grounded, supported and loved adults that you always wanted them to become.
I spoke to Graeme Ryley, a financial advisor at Platinum Consulting and this is what he had to say from a professional view towards a Will:
The importance of a will
A will ensures that your final wishes are attended to and that your assets are distributed correctly. By not having a will results in you dying ‘intestate’, this means that the courts will then create a will on your behalf. In this instance there can be potential delays and your loved ones may be left with no finances to cover day to day expenses as accounts can be frozen for months on end. It is especially important for parents who have children as it ensures that guardians are nominated for your minor children and that a trust is created to manage funds on their behalf. Not nominating guardianship will result in there being no one to care for your children and the state will have to nominate a guardian on your behalf. As you can imagine this could result in your children being raised by someone that you would not have chosen yourself and possibly not have your children’s best interests at heart. A trust ensures that the monies left to your minor children are correctly utilised for their benefit and provide for their future. It is important that the correct person is chosen as trustee of the trust to ensure that the monies are correctly utilised and preserved for the benefit of your children. The guardians and trustee should preferably be different persons.
Who should draft a will? It is important that a will is drafted professionally with the assistance of a financial advisor or an attorney to ensure that the will meets the correct requirements stipulated by law and will be enforceable. Having the correct advice when drafting a will can result in you avoiding leaving a legacy of disaster after you are gone. An executor will need to be nominated to administrate the winding up of the estate. This person should be a qualified professional who understands the process and requirements of winding up an estate. Once a will has been drafted it is important that the will be signed by yourself and your witnesses, these witnesses should preferably be independent and not persons mentioned in your will. Once a will has be signed it should be kept in safe place and readily available when required.
The cost of a will can vary depending on who drafts it for you. A professional will can be drafted for approximately R 400 and is money well spent to ensure that you leave a legacy for your loved ones.