South Africans pay testament to Covid-19 concerns by drafting ...

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South Africans pay testament to Covid-19 concerns by drafting wills

Companies that assist people to draw up the documents have been inundated and face challenges

Senior reporter
Hundreds of South Africans have drafted wills since SA's first Covid-19 case was announced.
lesson in law Hundreds of South Africans have drafted wills since SA's first Covid-19 case was announced.
Image: 123rf/Burdun

The Covid-19 outbreak in SA forced a Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital medical doctor to get her financial affairs in order.

The Johannesburg-based doctor and single mother of a nine-year-old had put off drafting a will until she realised she faced death daily at work.

“I decided to take out a will when I heard about the Covid-19 outbreak, because I will likely be exposed to patients infected with the virus. As a health-care worker, I am in close physical contact with many patients daily.

“Data from other countries has shown a very high rate of infection in health-care workers, even when safety measures are employed. Some health-care workers have even died,” the doctor, who did not want to be named, told Times Select.

She is one of hundreds of South Africans who have drafted wills since SA’s first case was announced in March.

Capital Legacy, which launched telephonic will-drafting consultations due to the lockdown, reported 416 appointments booked on just one day.

“That’s a staggering number of people booking their appointments on one day,” said the company’s CEO, Alex Simeonides.

During “normal” times, it assists about 6,000 clients a month to draft wills.

“There may be several reasons people are focused on drafting or updating their wills at this time. The Covid-19 pandemic has focused everyone’s attention on the possibility of passing away and the uncertainty of life.  During lockdown, people also have more time on their hands to focus on getting their personal finances sorted out and realise that having a valid and up-to-date will is one of the most important financial documents they need to have in place to protect their legacies,” said Simeonides.

Governance, risk and compliance specialist Hemantha Ramdhani also reported an increase in the number of people contacting her to draft wills.

“In the past, having a valid will for most people was not of importance, but recently, with the Covid-19 pandemic and the possibility of contracting the virus and dying, I have had calls to draft wills for elderly parents and parents who are worried about what will happen to their minor kids if they contract the virus and pass away,” she said.

However, drafting a will during lockdown has created “many challenges and unusual conditions”.

“Some examples are that not everyone will be able to print their wills to sign them. There is also a high likelihood that the people they are in isolation with are beneficiaries to their wills and can therefore not sign as witnesses.

“We realise there are many questions and are working tirelessly to find answers for our clients. We have, for a while now, been lobbying for digital signing to be allowed on wills and this is a prime example of why this should be a consideration. What happens if someone passes away now without a valid and up-to-date will purely because of physical restrictions? Death doesn’t wait for a pandemic to pass. On the contrary it highlights our limited time,” said Simeonides.

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