10 September 2021
South Africa, as with countries across the world, has not been spared the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left in its wake a trail of infections and deaths as the virus strikes indiscriminately across society, emphasising the critical need to have in place a valid and accurate last Will and Testament.
Commenting ahead of the national Wills Week in South Africa, scheduled for between 13 and 17 September this year, Al Baraka Bank's Head of Legal, Ms Rooksana Safaat, said: "In the face of COVID-19, death is an ever-present danger and one that nobody should ignore, given the indiscriminate nature of the virus. There can be no room for an 'it-will-never-happen-to-me' attitude when it comes to COVID-19. Complacency is simply not an option and now, more than ever, we all have a real responsibility to have a valid Will in place, ensuring the financial well-being of those we leave behind."
Marking this year's Wills Week, Al Baraka Bank has provided the means for people wishing to complete a Shariah-compliant Islamic Will to download a template by going to https://www.albaraka.co.za/Home/Estate_Will, or to visit any branch of Al Baraka Bank to collect a free Will.
Ms Safaat said: "For South Africa's Muslim community, having a Shariah-compliant Will is critical, given the importance attached to ensuring that an individual's assets are dealt with and correctly distributed in line with Islamic laws of inheritance. Passing away without having prepared a valid Will results in that individual's estate automatically being distributed in accordance with the laws of South Africa, which is contrary to Shariah. This is why it is so important that Muslims prepare and hold valid, certified and Shariah-compliant Islamic Wills."
The National Wills Week is regarded as an important reminder to all those yet to arrange and set up a Will to do so - especially now when the COVID-19 pandemic is claiming so many lives in South Africa and around the world.
Ms Safaat said: "Our aim is to provide information and make it as easy as possible for anybody interested in securing a Shariah-compliant Will. The purpose is to show people that by having a Will in place, the Testator's wishes must then be followed in accordance with his or her religious responsibilities, thus avoiding having his or her estate instead being distributed in accordance with South African law. Dying intestate means that a person has failed to uphold his or her Islamic obligations, which is sinful. If one fails to do so intentionally - with the intent to prejudice or benefit any heirs unduly - the sin is considered to be significantly worse."
Al Baraka Bank, as a financial institution which works in partnership with its clients and the diverse communities it serves, believes it has an obligation to highlight the importance of Islamic Wills and to ensuring the financial well-being of those left behind upon the death of an individual.
"We set out to support South Africa's National Wills Week, encouraging clients and non-clients alike who are currently without Shariah-compliant Wills to put their financial and legal affairs in order. Equally important is the need to educate one's loved ones about what to do upon your death. The practical reality is that many families just don't know where to start and who to contact when a loved one passes away," said Ms Safaat.
"If you do not as yet have a Shariah-compliant Will in place, we would strenuously encourage you to make arrangements to prepare your Will in order to alleviate unnecessary stress and uncertainty for your family," she added.
Ms Safaat suggested people implement a number of considerations, including:
- Giving a copy of your Will to your Executor and family members so that, in the event of your death, it may be easily and quickly retrieved in order to give effect to your last wishes;
- Being transparent with your financial planning, preparing and maintaining a running inventory of all your assets and liabilities, so that your Executor is able to understand the assets in your possession and the debts which require settlement;
- Drawing up a list of bank accounts, credit cards, properties owned, unpaid debts, mortgage repayments, insurance policies, pension or provident funds, retirement annuities and the like;
- Keeping essential documents to hand, such as ID, marriage certificates, ANC contracts and the like;
- Ensuring that your dependents have sufficient cash to hand, so as to assist with at least six months of living expenses, as your bank accounts and other assets will be frozen during the wind-up of your estate, which can take a long time; and
- Making provision for the education and support of minor children.
"We, accordingly, take this opportunity to encourage all members of the public to participate in our Wills Week initiative and to secure an appointment with one of our consultants to assist you in preparing your Will," Ms Safaat said.