As a couple, should you have a joint or separate last will and testament

We all know the importance of having a Last Will and Testament that is up to date. This document is certainly one of the fundamental pillars of your financial planning. A couple may decide that a joint Will is more convenient for them because both of them are involved in the drafting of the Will and that there is only one document to review regularly. Generally, the reviews are also done together, so a joint Will seems to make sense! Or does it?

There is also the common misconception that a joint Will provides some form of protection to both parties because amendments to the document have to be made together. This, unfortunately, is not the case.

A joint Will is simply two separate Wills contained in one document. Either of the spouses can vary or revoke their part of the joint Will without advising or discussing the matter with the other spouse. This will not disqualify the party who is changing his or her Will from still benefiting from the Will of the other party.

Having a joint Will also has disadvantages from an administrative point of view. The original Will has to be lodged with the Master of the High Court in the event of the death of one of the spouses, and if the surviving spouse dies shortly after the first-dying without executing a new Will, the executor or family can encounter problems in trying to trace the original lodged at the Master. This has happened several times in our personal experience when dealing with deceased estates.

At a time when a loved one has passed away, complications surrounding a Will can add unnecessary stress to the family. Our advice is that couples should have separate Wills drafted once they have discussed and agreed how they wish their estates to be distributed.

Please call one of our Fiduciary specialists for advice about our Last Will and Testament services.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)

Lesley Field
Executive Assistant
FPM Risk & Wealth Management
lesley@fpm.co.za
011 778 9300