The last few months have had us staring down the barrel of the covid-19 shotgun.

What has been your response?

Have you paused to consider if your affairs are in order because a reality check is not necessarily a bad thing?  Prevention strategies and preparedness are key to staying ahead of any threat.  Virus aside, death is ultimately the most inevitable threat of all, and I think it’s fitting that you should have the final word!  Legally formalising your legacy is of crucial importance on innumerable levels.

How often have you heard someone say, “How hard can it be?” and watched them go on to make a complete hash of it?  Or, “What can possibly go wrong?” and had the satisfaction of delivering the most punch-worthy comment of all time: “I told you so”?

Trust me.  The last thing you want to mess up is your succession planning.  Simple at face value but fraught with potential pitfalls when it comes to execution and intended results.

It can become quite difficult and/or contentious deciding how to share your legacy equitably, but it boils down to who deserves what, why and under what conditions.  Since an inheritance is a material expression of love and goodwill, why would you want it to be anything but a straightforward act of generosity devoid of complications?

Pay special attention if you have no living family or children, or are part of a blended family (when you marry someone who already has children, the classic “yours, mine and ours”) or living in a relationship that has not been legally formalised!

Every one of my clients has come to me because they respect my knowledge and business acumen honed over many years of experience in this field.   They want a specialist they trust implicitly because they need the assurance that their successors/beneficiaries will receive the maximum benefit and enjoyment of their inheritance as quickly as possible, with the minimum of fuss and without unnecessary costs.  As a Master Tax Practitioner, I also know how to mitigate the tax implications – quite significantly actually!

What happens if you die intestate?

The Intestate Succession Act kicks in and the Master of the Court will appoint an executor.  This person is given authority to make decisions based on your blood line – the beneficiaries may not be who you wanted them to be.  If there’s a minor (under the age of 18), the law will create a trust for the minor and it will be controlled by some arbitrary civil servant.  (And, 3.5% of the total value of the estate will be subtracted as payment for doing the job.)  Chances are you had every intention of creating a Will but never quite got round to it.  “The Story of the Procrastinator and the Overloaded Civil Servant”, a book waiting to be written!

What happens if you have a Will?

An executor is appointed in a Will – it can be a person you trust or an impartial organisation, like a bank or insurance company.  The originator of the Will can amend it according to changing circumstances while he/she is alive but upon death, it’s cast in stone.  Wills take at least a year to finalise because of the arduous legal processes which means the beneficiaries have delayed access to their inheritance.  Wills also do not make provision for any disability planning for the originator.

What happens if you have a Trust?

A Trust offers greater protection for the originator during his/her life and the successors after the originator’s death because it’s a living document entrenched with checks and balances.  Unlike a Will, a Trust does not die with the originator, it is passed to the next generation as a work in progress.  Therefore, estate duties do not apply.  One can create a family of Trusts for individuals, each with trustees as guardians of the funds, and one can be a beneficiary.  This helps prevent next generation wars and gives individuals more control of their financial destinies and those of their families.  After the originator has passed, the Trustees retain the authority to make any necessary amendments in line with changing circumstances.

The set-up costs are an issue for many individuals, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to balance the cost with the benefits of the professionalised planning, execution, and outcome.  A specialist is geared to simplify complicated issues.

I prefer to meet my clients face to face as no two are alike and one-on-one meetings allow me to get to grips with each client’s concerns and wishes so I am able to structure an entirely unique document that meets every specific directive and foible.  It also initiates a highly personalised relationship based on professionalism, trust, and confidentiality.

DR MERVIN MESSIAS – JD (Juris Doctor) / BA, LLB University of the Witwatersrand
TEP (Trust & Estate Practitioner) / MTP Master Tax Practitioner – S.A.)

Book an appointment with my Executive Assistant, Jutleth Mkhonza.  Email  julie@mmtrustspecialist.co.za or call +27 (0) 11 783 0108