Elmo Stuart - Director.

Two things in life are certain: death and taxes. The latter is unavoidable, unpredictable and its timing, unknown. Just consider the thousands of people currently succumbing to Covid-19 where they have been caught off-guard, put into quarantine or seclusion, and perhaps never had the opportunity under their circumstances to even consider “what if?”.

Many people adopt the attitude that the administration of their estates would not be their problem after their demise, or they reason that they have (possess) nothing and why bother about a Will.

How simplistic or “poor” your estate may be, there are always matters to attend to. There are accounts to be closed, accounts to pay (such as an overdue credit card and car payments) or medical expenses or claims to attend to or to be processed through your Medical Aid.

Not only do you burden the loved ones you leave behind to sort out this mess, but it is also a burdensome, time-consuming and costly process to have an executor appointed in the absence of a will, to sort out the administrative issues, which most of the time can only be defined as “a mess”.

Without a Will and the appointment of an executor, the Master of the High Court may appoint an executor on behalf of your estate.

We recently consulted a widow for assistance where her husband passed on without leaving a Will. He reasoned that he possessed little and therefore had no reason to have a Will. What the deceased did not consider, is that he and his wife were married Out of Community of Property with the application of the Accrual System. The widow’s estate accrued during their marriage, whereas the husband’s estate showed no growth since their marriage 30 years ago. The accrual to which the deceased husband’s estate became entitled to as accrual claim against the surviving spouse were calculated to be the sum of R2,500 000-00. This created a big problem, as this inheritance does not revert to the surviving spouse, but is shared between her and four children in terms of the laws of intestate succession, meaning that the assets of the deceased husband are distributed in accordance with legal prescriptions. The surviving spouse will have to dispose of her assets to effect payment of the accrual claim.

A further problem the aforesaid widow faced is that the deceased left children all over the globe, whom will have to complete documentation to nominate an executor, which documentation must be submitted to the Master’s office in duplicate and must be originals. This means that courier services must be appointed and, where applicable, airmail.

Even if you have a Will, it may be time to consider revision thereof due to changed circumstances and/or events that can be foreseen.

A simple Will is not expensive and even a more expensive Will, as a result of appropriate investigation and estate planning, maybe one of the best, if not the best, investments you may ever make.

Feel free to communicate with us should you require assistance or further advice.