Having a valid Will is a way to avoid unintended consequences. The benefit of having a will is that you can appoint guardians to take care of your minors; it enables you to do a “stock take” of assets your surviving relatives might not be aware of and limit taxes payable on your deceased estate, to name a few.
Why is it essential to have a will?
A will is a legal document in which a person (“testator/testatrix”) ensures that their belongings are distributed according to their wishes after death. Any person 16 years or older may make a valid will unless he or she is mentally incapable of understanding the nature of a Will. A will determines how your estate will be distributed amongst your heirs after your death.
Where must a deceased estate be reported?
A deceased estate must be reported within 14 (fourteen) days of the person’s death. The estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court in whose area of jurisdiction the deceased was living 12 (twelve) months prior to his/her death. However, a deceased estate may also be reported to a magistrate’s office in the district where the deceased usually lived. This may only be done in the following circumstances, if the:
- deceased died without a Will; and
- value of the deceased estate is less than R100 000; and
- The estate is solvent (assets exceed the liabilities); and
- money available in the deceased estate is less than R20 000.
Why should a deceased estate be reported?
A deceased estate may not be administered without being formally appointed as an executor/representative of the deceased estate. Therefore, a deceased estate must be reported for an executor/representative to be appointed, who will be under the control of the Master. The Master will oversee the administration of the deceased estate to ensure that the correct procedures are followed. The Master will also ensure that the executor/representative act in the best interest of the deceased estate and may remove an executor/or representative if they fail to do so.
What happens after a deceased estate has been reported?
An executor/representative will be appointed. If an executor is appointed, she or he can continue with the administration of the deceased estate, which includes the following:
- Collect the property that will form part of the deceased estate, such as any money that must be paid out from policies or money owed to the deceased estate.
- Place an advertisement in a local newspaper where the deceased usually lived and the Government Gazette. This advertisement will inform all creditors of the deceased’s death and request them to lodge their claims against the deceased estate (“claims”) within 30 days from the date of the advertisement.
What happens after the executor completes the Liquidation and Distribution account?
As soon as the Liquidation and Distribution account has been completed and approved by the Master, it must lie for inspection (meaning that the public can go and view it) at the Master and a Magistrate’s office for at least 21 days. If no complaints were received during this period, the executor will pay the debts and distribute the property as per the account. This includes transferring a house (if any) to the heirs, after which the administration of the deceased estate is finalised.
It is important to remember that the administration of a deceased estate can take a few months or even years (depending on the complexity of a deceased estate).
Having a will is a very important legal document. Without a valid will, your work could be undermined. In addition, your family and beneficiaries will likely suffer due to an uncertain financial and legal future because of the inevitable long delay in winding up your estate.
Contact an expert at SchoemanLaw today for your legal needs.