Do you own a home or a car? Do you have parents or children? Have you been saving for your future?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you need to have an estate plan. You may have an idea that only the rich need an estate plan. But in truth, if you want to protect your family should something happen to you, you need to plan your estate.

What is an estate?

Your estate comprises everything you own (a person’s assets such as a house, car and money) and owe (a person’s liabilities, such as vehicle or homeloan). Estate planning is not as simple as merely drafting a will. It also structures your affairs to make the process easier for those you’re leaving behind.

Estate planning is not a once off activity. You’ll need to continue the process of reassessing throughout your life as your assets and family changes.

What you’ll need to do

The first step in the process is to be sure of what your assets, income and liabilities are. If you do have liabilities, the good news is your heirs won’t inherit your debt; but they will receive a smaller portion of your estate as the creditors will have to be paid first from the deceased estate.

You are going to need to decide what you would like to do with your assets. If you are at a stage of life when you have parents who you care for, you’ll have to provide for them. Later in life, you’ll need to remove your parents from your estate plan and possibly add children, if you have them.

A team of people usually works together to plan your estate. This might be your accountant, financial advisor and an attorney to provide legal assistance. They will have your best interests at heart to ensure your estate is wrapped up as quickly as possible after your death.

Write your will

Completing a will is the most essential task of estate planning. Without a will your estate will be divided according to intestate succession. It does not, contrary to popular belief, go to the state. Your estate will first be divided among your spouse and children. If you do not have a spouse or children, your estate will be left to your parents or their descendents. The Law Society of South Africa holds a National Wills Week every year to help people complete their wills.

It is important to remember that completing your will is just the first step of estate planning, you need to complete the process with the help of professionals. You will feel so much better knowing you are leaving less stress for your loved ones

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