May I bequeath my estate to whoever I choose, or am I obliged in law to benefit certain persons, for example, a spouse and children?
If South African law applies to your estate, you have complete freedom to leave your assets to whoever you may choose. However the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act entitles a spouse who has not been adequately provided for in the will of his/her predeceased spouse to claim, in certain circumstances, maintenance from the predeceased spouse’s estate.
In addition a parent has to provide for the maintenance of his or her dependent children and if no provision is made for this in the will, the children can claim from the estate. Remember also that the surviving spouse of the deceased may have a claim against the deceased’s estate by virtue of the law governing the marriage or an antenuptial contract. Spouses who are married in community of property have a right in law to one half of the net value of the joint estate.