My mind is really fresh as I write. Yes, fresh from memories of my neighbourâ€™s wife who was literally dragged out from her matrimonial house because the husband had passed away. Apparently, the house was in the husbandâ€™s name. His barbaric relatives mercilessly put a claim on the houseâ€”paying a blind eye to the children who stood watching as the household items were being thrown out. It is a sad tale. Fortunately, she managed to mobilise resources and secured a lawyer. After months of battling it out, she reclaimed the house. But she lost a huge fortune paying a lawyer which she would have saved if her spouse had left a will.
You can spare your spouse and children all this embarrassment if only there was a will written. A will is basically a legal document that allows a dead person to tell living people what to do and they have to do it. This is an awesome power if you think about it. Not only does this allow a person to speak from beyond the grave, a will also achieves a level of obedience that is seldom seen during life.
The most common function of a will is to transfer the ownership of a deceasedâ€™s assets to a designated beneficiary. Any assets that do not transfer automatically upon a personâ€™s death end up as part of the estate. A will, then, acts as a back-up plan for how these assets get distributed once they are stuck in the estate. Others would argue on the lines that they do not have anything worthwhile materially to necessitate them to write a will. But the children one has will have to have a responsible guardian, your remains resting place can be a bone of contention sometimes if not put in the will. So, a will is important with or without having any substantial material possessions.
How does one go about writing a will then? You may be asking. Firstly, as testator (person writing the will) you have to decide on what will go into the will and who will inherit it. Decide on how you will distribute assets to a specific person(s) or to a favourite charity. You can also use the will to leave a gift of a cherished item or monetary amount to somebody special left behind (e.g. your church pastor, family friend, somebody who just interested you during a conference at Nkopola in Mangochi).
Secondly, you have to find an executor who is somebody who will handle your estate when you are dead. Along with this is the need to name the guardian to your children or wards. If you have minor children, it is highly recommended that you make a will if for no other reason than to name a guardian for them. If you die intestate (without leaving a will), a court will probably award the custody and care of your children to the nearest available relative (which may include that aunt you have always loathedâ€”somebody who will treat your children badly).
Remember, a chosen guardian does not have to accept this responsibility and can refuse to take your children. A good source of potential guardians is close friends or family members with kids of their own. Since they are in the same position as you, you can agree to make reciprocal provisions in your wills to take each otherâ€™s children if needed.
Thirdly, you have to find a lawyer to draft the will for you. It is possible to have a home-made will drafted (and it can legally be accepted if two witnesses duly sign to it and is authentic). Much as the main benefit to making a will on your own is saving money (a lot of money if you are considering having a lawyer to do it for you), the main drawback is the potential for something to go wrong with the omissions or additions in the will. So much as putting together your own will is certainly an achievable and inexpensive goal.
The question is whether you are willing to risk the consequences of unprofessionally drafting this very important document. The price of failure when making a will is having a part of Will (or worse the entire) invalidated when it gets to the courts for execution.
Have a blessed week-end as you lock off in your bedroom to write the Will and get it vetted by your lawyer.