An obvious starting point in our first of a new series of Trusts and Estates Alerts, is to consider the importance of having a well-constructed, valid Will.
If you, at the time of your death, have no Will, or your Will is invalid or does not deal with your entire estate, you are said to have died intestate. It is estimated that more than 50% of South Africans die intestate every year
Despite the horror stories, if you die without a Will, your assets are not forfeited to the state, however the distribution thereof is regulated by statute as opposed to your own directions, as you would have set out in your Will.
The relevant Act that regulates the devolution of your assets should you die without a Will is known as the Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987.
The Act sets out a fixed formula that is applied to determine who inherits your estate and in what proportion.
The Act is based on – excluding benefits to a spouse – a system of passing benefits to the blood family of the deceased. The general principle being that those family members closest to the deceased in terms of the bloodline, stand to inherit first.
So for example, if the deceased is married, but does not have children, the spouse will inherit the entire estate.
If however the deceased does not have a spouse at the time of his death, but has children, the children will inherit the entire estate in equal share.
Make sure all your registrations are up to date before you die: Register