“I remember very well the day he passed away. He dropped me at work and my younger brother at school and kissed us on the cheek,” Monique recounts the circumstances of her father’s sudden death.

“Then he said he would come to fetch us late in the afternoon, but he went forever,” she adds emotionally.

Monique’s father, a rich businessman, died in a car crash afterwards.  A big fight over his estate ensued soon after his death between the man’s family and his two wives.

The latter wanted to ensure that their children did not get cheated out of their father’s estate.

Big fight

“It was a big fight, a big one that nearly ended up involving witchcraft. You know how we, black people, are when it comes to dealing with the estate of a dead person, especially if he or she was rich,” Alan, Monique’s brother, says.

“Our uncles, our father’s brothers, wanted to take everything away, from cars to houses and businesses. We told them over our dead bodies.

“They said we if didn’t give up on those things we would all die mysteriously. But we told them that they will not  intimidate us over our father’s hard-earned money.

“It was the strangest thing I ever have heard.”

Monique says she did not know the importance of a will until her father passed away. “People at work used to ask me if our father did not draw up a will. I was young and wondering whether one shouldn’t wait until he or she’s on the deathbed before writing a will.”

Legal document

A will is a legal document wherein a person stipulates how his or hers assets are be dealt with when his or she passes away.

“A will is a vital part of your legacy planning and helps ensure that your loved ones are secure in the event of your passing,” Sizwe Nxedlana, First National Bank (FNB) CEO for Wealth and Investments, says.

“Maybe if he left a will to say who will get what after he passes away, we wouldn’t have had such a big fight over his estate. I learned the hard way. Wills are the ultimate solution to solving family disputes. I cannot wait until I’m about to die. What if I die suddenly like our father?” Alan asks.

Further, your heirs may be forced to spend additional time, money, and emotional energy to settle your affairs after you’re gone, warns Investopedia.

Stats, innovation

Approximately 80% of South Africans do not have a valid will in place, and even more concerning is that many people believe that it’s a need only when they get older or later in life, First National Bank says, adding that a will formed an integral part of the holistic financial planning process.

In the United States, only four in 10 adults have a will or living trust, according a study conducted by Caring.com in 2017.

Nearly 54% of UK adults do not have a will. This is according to a 2018 research conducted by Royal London, an insurance company. Nearly 5.4 million people also have no idea how to make one.

FNB launched this month an innovative product, to help customers draw up their own wills. This will be done via the FNB Online Banking platform at no cost.

To date, 52 000 clients have already drafted their will though this online functionality, the bank reveals.

The solution allows customers to easily draft a will online anytime and at any place at no cost, Johan Strydom says. Strydom is the head of Growth for Wealth and Investments at FNB.

“In addition, FNB will keep your original will in safe custody at no extra cost.”