Conflicting Wills in South Africa: Legal Consequences and Precautions

A client asked: What happens if I don’t revoke my first South African will where I leave everything to one person and then make a second will years later, leaving everything to a second person? What are the legal consequences?

Introduction

If you have a will and want to make a new one because of changed circumstances (for example you have since gotten married and have children) it is essential that your new will revokes the earlier will or wills. The revocation clause would typically read: I revoke all previous wills made by me.

When a person fails to revoke their first will while making a second will that contradicts the first, it can cause significant issues during the winding-up process and distribution of assets.

Legal Consequences of Conflicting Wills

The legal consequences of having two conflicting wills can be complex and may include disputes between beneficiaries, uncertainties in estate administration, and potential challenges during the winding-up process. If both wills are considered invalid, the estate might be treated as if the deceased had died without a will, subjecting it to intestacy laws.

Precautions and Expert Guidance

To avoid these legal complexities and ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, it is crucial to seek the counsel of a qualified estate planning attorney. They can assist in creating a clear and legally valid will, revoking any previous wills appropriately, and providing advice on additional estate planning measures, such as trusts, to safeguard your assets and mitigate potential conflicts.

Conclusion

Creating multiple wills with conflicting provisions can have serious legal implications. Seeking professional legal guidance and ensuring that your estate planning documents are up-to-date and consistent can help prevent disputes and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

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