There has been a massive rise in demand for wills from people worried about coronavirus, as the awareness of mortality amid a pandemic increases.
In South Africa, our law requires that you sign your will in front of two independent witnesses in person, in your presence. If you don’t comply with this requirement, your will is invalid.
In family homes, loved ones named in the will are not permitted to witness a will, as this would void their entitlement and they would have to forfeit their inheritance.
One area of concern is people trying to make a will shortly before they die. Finding independent witnesses when confined to a hospital bed may be difficult. Visitors are not allowed, and doctors and nurses are not allowed to bring potentially tainted documents to bedsides. These professionals are concentrating on medical treatment anyway.
That means someone in hospital and likely to pass away will not be able to write a last-minute will. Currently healthy people are thus encouraged to execute a will now, while they still can.
So, what do you do, if you are in lockdown and don’t have access to two independent witnesses and want to finalise a will at short notice? You can go to a pharmacy, so perhaps the pharmacist and his or her assistant can be the witnesses. I believe that there must be a relaxation of our lockdown rules, in these circumstances.
If you need a will please seek professional advice, as do-it-yourself wills from online templates may be risky and invalid.
If you don’t have a will, the laws of intestacy (dying without a will) apply. Read more here.