In South Africa, any will that was created after 1 January 1954, must be in writing. They may be handwritten, typed, or printed. Theoretically, you can write your own will and it will be legally valid if you have two witnesses signing in your presence. But is this a wise move?

A will is one of the most important documents you will ever write. Your will is crucial in determining the distribution of your assets according to your wishes after you pass away. If you pass away without a will or with an invalid will, your wishes will not be carried out properly.

A DIY will is a will you create on your own, without the assistance of a professional person. Despite the several consequences of a do-it-yourself will, many individuals continue to neglect to properly draft a will. This is frequently caused by the costs of consulting a professional for legal advice. Drafting your own will to save costs may seem appealing, but if the will contains errors or does not follow the strict legislative rules, it may be deemed invalid.

Why are do-it-yourself wills so problematic and what obstacles can arise from drafting your own will?

A will must fulfil several requirements, such as being properly witnessed to be valid. It must also specify who will be nominated as the executor, who will be nominated as the guardian for minor children, and how inheritance to minor children will be dealt with which includes the creation of a testamentary trust. Unless you are single, don't have any dependents, own no possessions or have any other obligations, a DIY will is not the best option.

DIY wills may not deal effectively with specific assets, such as fixed property that are intended to be passed on to specific beneficiaries. This may result in the asset not being distributed to the intended beneficiaries.

Most DIY wills are drafted poorly, to the point where they are unenforceable in part or in their entirety. This will include adding unreasonable or illegal requirements and conditions before the heirs may receive any inheritance.

It is therefore important to seek the assistance of a professional to assist you with the drafting of your will, as this will ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death, as well as ensure that your will is witnessed and signed in accordance with the legal requirements.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.