The #1 thing a single mom needs

Parenting is no picnic and single moms have even more to think about, so this Mother’s Day we’re sparing a thought for the heavy-lifting that single parents have to do, especially moms! Motherhood has been called the hardest job you'll ever love. It’s also the hardest job you’ll ever do, especially if you’re on your own.

The #1 thing a single mom needs

Apart from juggling work and home, there are financial pressures, practical challenges, time constraints, kids’ online safety, and their physical and mental wellbeing to look after. Doing this day in, day out leaves precious little headspace for thinking about the future, let alone contemplating the unthinkable… what happens to a child when a single mom passes away.

It is easy to see why five million single moms in South Africa do not have wills – they struggle to get around to doing it. However, if you consider the implications for a child, of a single mom dying without a will, the prospects are truly scary. Here are some of the most important reasons for single moms – especially of minor children – to draft a will without delay:

  1. Setting out your child-rearing preferences and nominating a guardian to raise your minor children.
  2. Creating a trust and nominating trustees to administer funds on behalf of your minor children, as well as choosing the age your kids must reach before they can start managing the funds themselves.
  3. Protecting your assets and making clear how you want them distributed.
  4. Identifying other beneficiaries such as nieces, nephews, stepchildren or foster children, who might also be under your care, or should also benefit from your estate.

As the leading wills and estates specialists in South Africa, Capital Legacy often sees life-changing scenarios play out when single moms pass away without wills, and these circumstances become even more challenging when there is no legal co-parent. Drafting a valid will, making provision for a trust and nominating a guardian for your children really are essential steps for single moms to take.

Capital Legacy recently administered the estate of a single mother of three minors. Although her passing was a devastating loss for her children and her extended family, the impact was softened because she had a valid will and could bequeath her entire estate to her children. She had also nominated experienced professionals at Capital Legacy to take on the executorship, which meant there were fewer delays in the estate administration process than if an executor had to be appointed by the courts. Crucially, her will included provision for a testamentary trust to be created for her children, providing for their needs until they attain the age stipulated in her will. She named trustees who are administering the funds from her estate, making sure her three children are looked after until they are mature enough to take care of themselves. Nothing could ever make up for the loss of their mother, but by making sure that her children are provided for, this single mom’s final act was truly meaningful.

If a single mom passes away without a will

Whether there is a surviving legal co-parent or not, if a single mother passes away without a will (‘intestate’) her estate is administered in line with the Intestate Succession Act. The courts decide who becomes the guardian of her minor child or children – without any guidance to reference with regards to the mother’s wishes. The courts also determine who manages her estate, including everything from the funds in her bank accounts and investments, to property, vehicles, possessions, pets, and more. If the courts get involved to this extent, it often results in drawn-out estate administration processes that not only take long to conclude, but also erode the legacy and inheritance that can be passed on.

The implications for the day-to-day needs of children can be significant, as Capital Legacy has often seen. Recently, a single mother of two minor children passed away without a will and while her estate could still go to her children, the benefit had to be paid to the government’s Guardian’s Fund, administered by the Master of the High Court. The only way for her beneficiaries (kids) to access funds from the estate, is for the court-appointed guardian to apply to the Guardian’s Fund for the money.

This process is cumbersome and time consuming because the guardian must go to the Master’s Office in person for everything from providing fingerprints for identity authentication to lodging applications for funds and finding out which supporting documents are required. Once these documents have been sourced, the guardian must return to the Master’s Office, in person, to submit them. Sometimes guardians have to return four or five times for a single application. This greatly delays access for children to much-needed funds.

Even once all the paperwork is in order, an application can still take time to work its way through the system before the funds are paid out. All the while, children like the two in our example, need to be looked after and their guardian must cover regular expenses like school fees, school uniforms, stationery, extra-curricular activities, sports equipment, school trips, and more.

Had there been a valid will that made provision for a trust to be created for the children, the guardian and trustees could access funds for day-to-day expenses without applying to the courts, and the balance would remain in trust until the children reach the age stated in the will.

A valid, up-to-date will is the best ways for a single mom to protect her family, loved ones and her legacy. It is a legally binding document that makes life easier for those left behind. It also provides peace of mind that her last wishes will be carried out and her estate managed to benefit and take care of her minor children, including being raised by a trusted guardian.

You can see why it is the #1 thing a single mom needs, apart from some me-time, perhaps!

Whether you’re in need of a will, life insurance, education cover,
or the power of all three, we have got you covered.