What makes a valid will?


Christel Botha | Fiduciary Services Manager | Alexander Forbes | mail me |

Your will is one of the most important documents on which you ever have to place your signature.

It is your last wishes on earth and the document that determines how your assets should be divided, nominates an executor and trustee to take care of the division of the estate’s assets and to handle the administration of any trust assets.


A will should comply with certain legal requirements to be valid and the validity of this document is prescribed in the Wills Act 7 of 1953 that sets the rules for a signed will to be legally accepted by the Master of the High Court.

All wills must be in writing and can be written by hand, typed or printed.

The will must be signed by yourself in the presence of two impartial competent witnesses.  The same witnesses must sign the entire will. A competent witness is someone who is 14 years or older, is able to sign his or her name and give evidence in a court of law.

It is advisable to include a ‘Details of Witnesses’ page which contains the full names and contact details of the witnesses for easy identifying of who they are should there be any dispute to the document after death.


You should review your will regularly to ensure it is still a correct reflection of your current wishes and fits your current situation – married or divorced, with any dependents.

Amendments may be added to your current will or be provided to your executor to re-draft the will to include them.

The following persons may not sign as a witness:

  • Heirs, legatees and/or their spouses
  • The nominated executor, trustees, guardians and/or their spouses

In conclusion

If changes are made on the will, you and two competent witnesses must sign next to all amendments.

If the amendments are being added to the will on a later date than originally signed, you may sign next to the amendments with two other impartial witnesses if the persons who witnessed the will originally may not be available.

It is beneficial to have the validity of your will discussed with a specialist in the fiduciary business, such as a Trust Company or attorney, who will be able to give comprehensive advice taking into account all factors surrounding your personal circumstances.



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