Are your Affairs in Order (Part two)

An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100 %.

The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said: “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”

The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!” (

Ah… the wisdom that comes with old age. 🙂

Death is not the most comfortable subject there is to talk about. I have a bit of a background in law, and one of the subjects that I particularly enjoyed was Wills. It was then that I was introduced to the ‘spinnekoppe’ of intestate law (when you pass away without a will.) It could get very interesting and VERY complicated. That is why it is so very important to make a will while you still can.

Before I attended Shirley Tascone from SBT Legal’s seminar on wills I asked her permission to share on my blog what I learnt from her presentation. She was also kind enough to provide the attendees with her powerpoint presentation, and I will use that as a guideline.

Please know that this is just information about legal issues concerning a will, this is not a substitute for legal advice.

There are legal terms that you have to understand. They are –

  • Real property and personal property;
  • Joint tenants and Tenants in Common;
  • Executor;
  • Superannuation and Death Benefit Nomination,

Real Property is immovable property, e.g. house.

Personal Property is movable propery, e.g. money, stocks, vehicles etc.

Joint Tenants are when you own property jointly with someone else. This is usually your spouse, but may be other family members or friends. In the event of death the surviving joint owner automatically inherits the property, whether movable or immovable. This is regardless what is stipulated in the will.

Tenants in Common is when you own the property in percentages. You as an owner can do anything with your portion of the property. The surviving co-owner does not automatically inherit your portion. You have to state in your will who you want your percentage of the property to go to.

What is an executor? It is the person you nominate to deal with your estate according to the terms of your will. As mentioned in the previous post, it is important that your Executor is in the same country as you are. Your executor must be someone you trust and it is advisable to also nominate a ‘back up’ executor. Note of caution, to be an executor of an estate can be an overwhelming experience especially to some one who does not feel comfortable with the administrative side of things. Think carefully about your nomination.

The next point is something that many people are not aware of and it comes as quite a surprise to them. Your superannuation is not part of your estate and is distributed according to the terms of your Super Fund or if you have a Death Benefit Nomination form. YOUR DEATH BENEFIT NOMINATION IS USUALLY ONLY VALID FOR THREE YEARS AND YOU HAVE TO INFORM THEM EVERY THREE YEARS IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO KEEP IT THE SAME OF CHANGE IT.
You Super can only go to your spouse or children or both or anyone that is financially dependent on you.

These are the main terms that you have to understand when it comes to wills in Australia.

Another situation that arises more and more these days is the one of blended families. Especially where there are children from a previous relationship. If you do not have a will that stipulates what you want to go to whom, it may happen that the children from a previous relationship is left with nothing.

Dear Migrant to the Great South Land,

I was once again amazed today by the sheer determination and resilience that we as migrants display when arriving in Australia. Many arrive here without a job and just the suitcases that they carry with them. They are in survival mode when they step off that plane, death is not even an option! It is however not something you can tell to come back later, when you have finished living.

Plan your will, the same way you planned for this adventure. Have a valid and up to date South African Will (if you still have property there) and make sure that you get a valid and up to date will in Australia.

I leave you with this beautiful Irish blessing.

May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of your wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.


4 thoughts on “Are your Affairs in Order (Part two)

  1. Pingback: Are your Affairs in Order? (Part one of why an Australian will is important for South African Migrants) | Marlize Venter

    • Please do, we procrastinated a bit, because I had to really think about the question – but what about our kids? We do not have family here and even though we have friends who are almost like family, blood just do run thicker in these kind of circumstances. I homeschool my kids, and all those things had to be taken into account. I did not ejoy thinking about it at all, and could literally not sleep at night.
      All the best.


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