The Last Will and Testament, expressing the final wishes of an individual as far as his or her earthly possessions and funeral arrangements are concerned, is arguably the most important document a person will ever sign.
For most people, having a will drafted is by no means an exercise that is embarked on with excitement and more often than not inspired by the frown on your cardiologist’s face whilst reviewing your EKG results. Jest aside, having a will does give a person some sense of control facing the inevitable and peace of mind that his or her loved ones will be taken care of.
Careful planning, meticulous tax advice, incorporation of practical measures to ease the administration process and to family harmony, your uncanny “draftsmanship”, all contained in the four corners of your client’s last will and testament – now what? Perhaps you have an ironclad risk management policy that requires you to provide your client with a duplicate original will; you maintain an internal will register for easy reference; your client’s will is stored in a fireproof safe and you send annual reminders encouraging review, confirming storage and safekeeping. The reality is, very few practices employ these measures, clients move away and/or change service providers. There is no cross-referencing between service providers, practices close down, wills get misplaced, clients simply forget who drafted their wills and/or where it is stored and so forth. When a will is needed for administration purposes, it is simply overlooked and the estate administered intestate. The point is, wills go missing!
A missing will in effect frustrates the final wishes of the testator/testatrix prejudicing the nominated beneficiaries if they are excluded from intestacy, deprives the nominated executor his or her fee and undermines the principle of freedom of testation. Fortunately there is a countermeasure, the National Will Register that will, combined with proper storage and safekeeping, work against wills being overlooked. The National Will Register was established by the South African Registry of Wills and Testaments (SARWT) and is available at www.sarwt.org.
The aim of the National Will Register is to serve as a central online public record utility where the administrative details of wills and testaments may be obtained once recorded on the system. SARWT offers members of the public and professionals free and open access to the National Will Register, to collaborate as social partners in the public interest initiative.
Confidentiality is paramount, only the administrative details of a person’s last will and testament, including living will details and organ donor status, can be recorded on the online searchable database. The terms of a will cannot be recorded, we do not accept wills or copies thereof. The system does not provide a browsing function and requires a family name and matching South African Identity number before an individual testator’s details can be accessed. Administrative details entails identification of the testator/testatrix, name and contact details of the executor, execution and location details of the original will and information of the registering organisation if not performed by the testator/testatrix. Amendments and updates can be performed via the edit/update function, a full history of which is available via the search function.
We are sensitive to your proprietary interest in your client base and therefore do not communicate with your clients except for a generic e-mail confirming initial registration and advising them to confirm that the registration details are correct.
The National Will Register in essence operates as a track and trace utility; participation is voluntary; designed as an automated system; offered free of charge to the public and relies on your participation.
Why run the risk to have your clients’ final wishes frustrated? Employ the safeguards offered by the National Will Register as part of your risk managing strategy and provide your clients with peace of mind that their wills, will not be overlooked at the time of their passing.