What lockdown taught us about wills

When lockdown happened, it happened fast. For some, there were only a few days to prepare for an indeterminate time of severe restrictions. For others, they had more to do and less time in which to do it.

Travellers were stuck abroad in foreign countries and had to follow equally foreign regulations. At times like these, risk cover and emergency funding are a crucial crutch when our finances and our freedoms are crippled.

Granted, few people have such extensive financial resources, and many experienced an even more challenging time after the economy was halted. There are legal documents that can give us extended peace-of-mind so that we have less to worry about. A will, last testament, and estate plan are documents that we can use to bolster our financial plan’s reach and health.

Here’s the thing about financial planning: we don’t plan out of fear; we plan so that we can extend our peace-of-mind. This is why wills form such a key role in our planning.

Global panic in early-to-mid 2020 led people worldwide to think about these documents, and requests for them to be drawn up or updated were aplenty. The risk of creating these documents under duress is that we can make mistakes, sometimes in what they cover and other times in their legitimacy when official procedures are overlooked (or not available as in hard lockdown).

We seldom have warning for life-changing events, and while it’s easy to say that ‘we should have planned’, we can be proactive after the event and choose to thoroughly investigate our plan right now – in our time of recovery and rebuilding.

Many of our notable companies who make these documents more readily available and ensure that they’re correctly adhered to in their compilation and execution made a plan during hard lockdown to ensure that their clients were adequately protected. This reminded us that it wasn’t impossible; it was just more challenging. 

As the pressure lifts (for however long), we have the opportunity to reassess our wills (and any other elements of our financial portfolios) and estate plans. We no longer live in the age of a handshake or a gentleman’s agreement. We live in a world striving for equality and freedoms that have the trade-off of potentially leaving us more exposed and vulnerable if we don’t have our responsibilities attended to.

As Mvuzo Notyesi, president of the Law Society of South Africa, says, “If you are a parent, a breadwinner, a homeowner and generally want to ensure that your affairs are in order, it is important that you have a valid will drafted by an attorney.”