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Wills & estates

This section is a brief overview. As with all legal matters, it does not replace the advice of a qualified professional.

The estate is the personal property and possessions of the deceased, as well as any monies or other assets owed to him or by him.

His representative, the executor settles all outstanding debts, after which the remainder of the estate is passed on to the deceased's heirs.

The executor must first locate the will, usually found amongst the deceased's papers, or with his lawyer, banker, accountant or insurance company.

The will is basically a list of instructions as to how the deceased's assets should be distributed. The instructions need to be drawn up by the person while he is still in a reasonable state of mind, able to remember what he owns and who he would like to leave it to. Any person over 16 who is able to comprehend the consequences of a will, may draw one up. It is advisable to date it, as well as revoke any previous wills which you make have drawn up.

The will should ideally nominate at least two executors to wind up the estate. Choose people who are sensible about handling money and trustworthy. The will should also be witnessed by two independent observers. As usual with contracts, make sure every page is signed.

It's a good idea to make some arrangements yourself for your own funeral. Funerals can be expensive, and the last thing you want to do is burden your descendants with the cost of burying you. So if you can, take out funeral insurance, or set some money aside in trust, to cover the cost of your funeral.

It's a well-known fact that your largest medical expenses tend to occur in your final years of life. So it may be a good idea to get medical insurance as well, if you don't have enough of your own money invested to cover those costs. Otherwise you could similarly end up burdening your family with large medical bills.



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