This year make estate planning one of your new year’s resolutions.
The advent of the new year often comes with resolutions to save more, get active and eat healthily. This year, ensure that you have your will and estate planning in order.
Too many people think a will is only relevant once you reach “a certain age” or if you have children, or significant assets.
Estate planning is so often tightly associated with advanced age, and the idea that this is the only time during an adult’s life that it holds any real value and importance.
However, it isn’t strictly applicable for “certain times” in your life; and nor is it exclusively reserved for the high net worth members of society or special circumstances.
Whether single, married, living with a partner, divorced, widowed, with children, without children – no matter what your personal set of circumstances are, all income earners can and should put an estate plan together.
If you’re an earning adult with assets, it’s in your own best interests as much as it is for others.
Estate planning for the single individual
Today, family structures are diverse and complex, including many people who choose to remain single.
“Independent earning individuals are essentially the decision-makers of their lives.”
“This makes estate planning very important; as without a plan, the law makes very specific decisions for you,” says Daniel Stoch, a Senior Risk Specialist at Discovery Life.
Without a plan or a will in place that stipulates specific instructions for what should happen and who should take over or benefit from specific assets, the legal system regards a person as having died ‘intestate’.
This means that all hard-earned assets will be divided up, mostly along bloodlines. “This may not be according to your actual preference,” adds Stoch.
For instance, surviving parents, siblings, or even other extended family members – such as a distant cousin – will be selected on behalf of an individual who has passed away without giving clear direction by law as to what should happen to their assets.
“It could happen that an someone would want immediate or extended family members to inherit. It could also happen that a person may prefer a close friend or even a charitable organisation to benefit from some of their assets,” adds Stoch.
“Without legally specifying this, no one may know that this is what you’d have wanted or be in a position to follow through with your wishes.”
Couples and estate planning
It’s not uncommon for younger adults to put off any thoughts around estate planning until much later – or when certain life experiences happen.
“Some feel that they are too young to start thinking about such things; while others take the view that they’re in good health, so it’s not yet necessary.”
The reality is that severe illness, accidents or even death are all possibilities for anyone to experience, at any life stage.
Such life-changing events are not entirely within any individual’s control.
“For couples of any age, it’s also about taking care of things for each other should the worst occur, and not just if there are dependents in the picture.”
“A tragedy may throw everything off course and disrupt lives, but an up-to-date estate plan can help to pull things together again.”
Families and estate planning
Family dynamics play a significant role in estate planning.
A couple may have children together. A couple may also have children from prior relationships living under one roof, or even adopted children.
Some individuals doing their estate plan may have no children at all, and never intend to; but also have complicated relationships with other blood relations.
Any issue, however small or insignificant, that is unresolved can quickly become complicated in an estate planning process.
While planners and legal teams can customise the governing documents required according to a person’s individual needs and wishes, addressing family-related challenges should ideally be appropriately handled beforehand to avoid complicated outcomes.
No matter what the family dynamic is, it’s a good idea to be upfront about any potential complex family matters.
Without transparency, the transfer or distribution of assets is difficult to handle seamlessly – no matter who the decided beneficiary is.
Introducing a product that makes access to estate planning much simpler
“Discovery Life understands many of the challenges people face when it comes to estate planning and that everyone is unique in their own right,” says Stoch.
“That’s why we have established Discovery Wills and Trust Services, which will be able to facilitate the estate planning process.”
“Through our supplementary benefit, the Discovery Life Estate Preserver, you can also cover the administration costs and liquidity needs of winding up an estate.”
Clients can access help with drawing up a personalised will – something that approximately 70% of working South Africans don’t currently have.
The products also include assistance with executor and trustee appointments, deceased estate administration, testamentary trust administration and estate property transfers.
“These benefits are for every earning adult out there, of any age, and at any stage in their lives,” he adds.
“No matter how simple or complex the structure of a family is, the professional services on offer can help to create the most solid plan that benefits all those a person intends.”
Contact Discovery Wills and Trust Services today on 0860 00 54 33 or [email protected], or speak to your financial adviser.
Disclaimer: Discovery Wills and Trust Services, a division of Discovery Central Services (Pty) Limited, a company registered in South Africa with registration number 2016/054628/07 and part of the Discovery group of companies. Discovery Life Limited. Registration number 1966/003901/06, is a licensed insurer, and an authorised financial services and registered credit provider, NCR Reg No. NCRCP3555