Exclusion of liability in wills

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Jamneck, J.
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Faculty of Law, University of the Free State
English: A high level of skill is required from will drafters when drafting wills. Our courts have recognised that will drafters who make mistakes may be liable towards disappointed beneficiaries for their negligence in the drafting or execution of wills. Applications in terms of section 2(3) of the Wills Act 7 of 1953 point to the possibility that this liability may be even wider and, consequently, drafters are trying to protect themselves by inserting so-called ‘disclaimers’ in wills. The purpose of this article is to discuss these disclaimers and to determine whether it is possible for a will drafter to exclude this liability. Wills are unilateral legal acts and it is, therefore, not possible for such documents to include provisions of a contractual nature that are adjudicated by the measure of consensus reached. A testator may, however, of his own free will, include wording in his will that exempts the drafter, but care has to be taken with the formulation of this wording. The attention of the testator has to be drawn to such wording when using a standard form will and it remains to be seen whether the informed testator will sign such a will.
Afrikaans: ’n Hoë vlak van vaardigheid word van testamentopstellers verwag wanneer testamente opgestel word. Ons howe erken dat testamentopstellers wat foute begaan aanspreeklikheid teenoor teleurgestelde begunstigdes mag opdoen vir hul nalatigheid in die opstel of verlydingsproses van testamente. As gevolg van aansoeke ingevolge artikel 2(3) van die Wet op Testamente 7 van 1953, bestaan die moontlikheid dat aanspreeklikheid selfs wyer mag strek en gevolglik poog testamentopstellers om hulleself te beskerm deur sogenaamde uitsluitingsklousules in testamente in te sluit. Die doel van hierdie artikel is om hierdie uitsluitingsklousules te bespreek en om ondersoek in te stel na die vraag of dit inderdaad vir ’n testamentopsteller moontlik is om aanspreeklikheid uit te sluit. Testamente is eensydige regshandelinge en dit is dus nie moontlik om bedinge van ’n kontraktuele aard wat gewoonlik op sterkte van die mate van consensus bereik, beoordeel word, daarin in te sluit nie. ’n Testateur kan egter, uit sy eie vrye wil, bewoording in sy testament insluit waardeur hy die testamentopsteller kwytskeld van aanspreeklikheid, maar daar moet omsigtig met hierdie bewoording omgegaan word. Die aandag van die testateur moet ook op sodanige bewoording gevestig word wanneer ’n standaardvorm testament gebruik word en dit bly onseker of die ingeligte testateur so ’n testament sal onderteken.
Drafting of wills, Wills Act 7 of 1953, Disclaimers in wills, Drafters, Drafter's liability
Jamneck, J. (2013). Exclusion of liability in wills. Journal for Juridical Science, 38(2), 1-16.