HOW DOES INHERITANCE WORK?

When someone dies they normally have what is called a ‘will’. The people who benefit from this ‘will’ are known as the heirs. Upon someone death, the heirs receive an ‘inheritance’. The person who administers the will of the deceased is called an ‘executor’.

What legislation affects inheritances?

South Africa’s inheritance laws apply to every person who owns property in South Africa.

The three main statutes governing inheritances in South Africa are:

  1. The Administration of Estates Act, which regulates the disposal of the deceased’s estates in South Africa;
  2. The Wills Act, which affects all testators with property in South Africa;
  3. The Intestate Succession Act, which governs the devolution of estates for all deceased persons who have property in the Republic and who die without a will.

All property located in South Africa is subject to these laws, and there are no separate laws for foreigners. Immoveable property is not treated any differently to other types of moveable assets for inheritance purposes. Inheritance issues of foreigners and South African citizens are primarily dealt with by the Master of the High Court; however, if a dispute arises, then the case can be heard in any High Court of South Africa.

Foreigners who acquire immovable property in South Africa through purchase or inheritance must register their transfer of ownership by registering a deed of transfer with the Registrar of Deeds in whose area the property is situated. The process of registering a deed of transfer is carried out by a conveyancer, or specialised lawyer, who acts upon a power of attorney granted by the owner of the property.

Tax and inheritance

In South Africa, there is no tax payable by the heirs who get an inheritance. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is also not payable by the recipient of an inheritance. Estate Duty and CGT, where applicable, are usually payable by the estate. If it is a foreign estate, it will be subject to the taxes of its country of origin.

What about donations or gifts?

Donations and gifts are treated differently to inheritance. For individuals, donations are subject to a Donations Tax of 20%, with an annual exemption of up to R100,000 of the value of all donations made during the tax year.

  • Non-residents are not subject to Donations Tax. However, in cases where the resident donor transfers his property to a non-resident (donee), and the resident donor fails to pay the Donations Tax, the non-resident (donee) and the resident (donor) will be jointly and severally liable for the tax.
  • Donations between spouses are exempt from Donations Tax, as are donations made to certain public benefit organisations.

Reference

  • The South African Revenue Service (SARS)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

THE BASICS OF CREATING A LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

Who your property is passed on to depends on whether you have a valid will or not. If you do have a valid will, then your property will be divided according to your wishes stated therein. If you die without a will (called “intestate”), then your property will be divided amongst your immediate family according to the laws of intestate succession.

How can I create a Will?

If you are older than 16, you have the right to create a will, to state who you would want your property to go to when you die. In order for your will to be valid, it needs to be compiled in the proper way.

  1. According to the law, you have to be mentally competent when you compile your will; this means that you must understand the consequences of creating a will and that you must also be in a reasonable state of mind when you do so.
  2. You must make sure that your will is in writing in order for it to be valid.
  3. Two people older than 14 years must witness the creating of your will (these witnesses cannot be beneficiaries).
  4. You have to initialise every page of the will and then sign the last page. The witnesses must also initialise and sign the will.
  5. You can, and should, approach a lawyer to help you draw up your will to avoid creating an invalid will.

You can appoint an executor in your will to divide your property amongst your loved ones. An executor is the person who will make sure that your property is divided according to your wishes, as set out in your will, and he/she will also settle your outstanding debts. If you don’t choose an executor yourself, then the court will appoint someone, which is usually a family member.

What are the risks of not having a Will?

If you don’t have a valid will when you die, your property will be divided according to the rules set out by the law. These rules state that a married person’s property will be divided equally amongst their spouse and children. If you don’t have a spouse or any children, then your property will be divided between other family members. If you also don’t have any blood relatives, then the property will be given to the government. You might think that you do not need a will, as your family will divide your possessions amongst each other, but you must keep in mind that delays in dealing with your estate could affect your family negatively; they might be relying on their inheritance for an income.

  • The beneficiaries of your estate will be determined according to the laws of intestate succession, if you die without a will.
  • This law determines the distribution of your assets to your closest blood relatives, meaning that your assets may be sold or split up against your wishes.
  • Some of your assets could be given to someone in your family that you did not intent to benefit from your estate.
  • Without a will, you cannot leave a specific item to a specific family member or friend.
  • If you live with someone but are not married to them, the law will not necessarily recognise him/her as a beneficiary of your estate, unless you have left a will naming them as a beneficiary.

References:

  • Western Cape Government. (2017). Making a Will. [online] Available at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/making-will [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].
  • Momentum.co.za. (2017). Drafting a will and setting up a trust. [online] Available at: https://www.momentum.co.za/wps/wcm/connect/momV1/f150ba2e-3724-4b42-9265-332106cb6b83/drafting a will_E vs 2 (07032013)[1].pdf?MOD=AJPERES [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE

If you have thought about getting a will, and jotted it down roughly in your journal, you’re already on the right track. But what if there are errors or you lose the journal?

Ensure that all your wishes are adhered to by drafting a will with your attorney. This way, there are no “small errors”, and you have one official testament to be carried out, which you can update at any time before you die.

Make an appointment with an attorney to draft your will – FREE during National Wills Week (11 to 15 September 2017).

Stop waiting this Wills Week and start planning. Contact us TODAY.

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OWNING PROPERTY WITHOUT A WILL

If you die without a Will, an administrator will have to be appointed to administer your estate which will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. As such, your assets may not be distributed as you would have wished. It also means that the process will be delayed and that there will be additional expense and frustration which most people would not want to inflict on their loved ones during a time of loss.

Marriage and property

When drafting your Will, it’s important to consider the nature of your relationship with your ‘significant other’. If you are married in community of property, you only own half of all assets registered in your name and that of your spouse. Your spouse therefore still remains a one half share owner of any fixed property you may want to bequeath to a third party which could potentially present difficulties.

If you are married in terms of the accrual regime, the calculation to determine which spouse has a claim against the other to equalise the growth of the respective estates only occurs at death. Your spouse may therefore have a substantial claim against your estate necessitating the sale of assets you had not intended to be sold.

Alongside your Will, you should also prepare the following in relation to any immovable property you may own:

  1. State where your title deeds are kept and record any outstanding bonds and all insurance
  2. File up-to-date rates and taxes receipts
  3. Record details of the leases on any property you have
  4. State who collects your rent
  5. State who compiles your yearly accounts
  6. State where your water, lights and refuse deposit receipts are kept

If you die without a Will

According to the according to Intestate Succession Act, 1987, your estate will be distributed as follows:

  1. Only spouse survives: Entire estate goes to spouse.
  2. Only descendants survive: Estate is divided between descendants.
  3. Spouse & descendants survive: The spouse gets R250 000 or a child’s share and the balance is divided equally between the spouse and descendants.
  4. Both parents survive: Total share is divided equally between both parents.
  5. One parent: Total Estate goes to the parent.
  6. One parent & descendants: Half the Estate goes to the parent; balance is divided equally amongst descendants.
  7. No spouse; No descendants; No parents; but descendants through mother & descendants through father: Estate divided into two parts: half to descendants through mother; half to descendants through father.
  8. No spouse; No descendants; No parents; No descendants through mother or father: Full Proceeds of the Estate has to be paid into the Guardians Fund in the event of no descendants whatsoever.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN I AMEND MY WILL?

Having a Will is a final statement of how you want your assets to be managed after your death. However, sometimes you may want to change it. You may have had a child, for example, and want to add him/her into your Will. You may have also acquired more assets and would like to reconsider how they get divided among your possible heirs.

What is a codicil?

When you want to add something to your Will or make a minor change, then you can make use of a codicil. A codicil is a schedule or annexure to an existing Will, which is made to supplement or to amend an existing Will. A codicil must comply with the same requirements for a valid Will. A codicil need not be signed by the same witnesses who signed the original Will.

What if I want to amend my Will?

  1. Amendments to a Will can only be made while executing a Will or after the date of execution of the Will.
  2. Amendments to a Will must comply with the same requirements for a valid Will and if you cannot write, with the same requirements listed under that heading.
  3. When amending a Will, the same witnesses who signed the original Will need not sign it.

Must I amend my Will after divorce?

A bequest to your divorced spouse in your Will, which was made prior to your divorce, will not necessarily fall away after divorce.

  1. The Wills Act stipulates that, except where you expressly provide otherwise, a bequest to your divorced spouse will be deemed revoked if you die within three months of the divorce.
  2. This provision is to allow a divorced person a period of three months to amend his/her Will, after the trauma of a divorce.
  3. Should you however fail to amend your Will within three months after your divorce, the deemed revocation rule will fall away, and your divorced spouse will benefit as indicated in the Will.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

WHAT ARE MUTUAL WILLS?

The most general mutual will is that of a married couple. This does not mean, however, that the estates are joined and that the Testator and Testatrix have to make a joint decision about the distribution of their estates. Each party may still make independent decisions about the distribution of his/her estate within one will.

As a result, a mutual will is very popular among married couples, but the person who draws up the will, should take into consideration each party’s assets, liabilities and needs regarding inheritance to determine whether he/she should draw up separate wills or a mutual will, i.e. 2 separate wills within one document or one will which determines that merging of the respective or mutual wills should take place.

What mutual wills should contain

In the case of a mutual will there should be a description regarding the execution of the will should the spouses die simultaneously or within a short period, such as 30 days of each other. For argument’s sake, the Testator and Testatrix could be in a car accident. The testator dies and the Testatrix is in a critical condition, rendering her unable to draw up a new will; provision should be made in the will for such scenarios.

Legislation acknowledges the principle of freedom of bequeathment; each person therefore has the right to bequeath his/her assets according to his/her preference. Despite a Testator and Testatrix having a mutual will, one of the parties could decide, for whatever reason, to have another individual will drawn up which is dated later than the mutual will. The surviving spouse will not be able to insist that the mutual will be accepted as the last will and testament.

Amending a mutual will

One party does not need the other party’s permission to amend a mutual will. Each party has the right to draw up a new will at any time, without any obligation to inform the other party thereof. Should the mutual will turn out to be the last will of the deceased, it will become the valid will regarding the deceased, regardless of whether the surviving spouse had already drawn up another will.

Do the estates merge?

Merging of estates takes place when the estates of two people are joined into one upon the death of the first spouse, mainly with the aim of managing an asset in which both parties had an interest. Normally a limited right, such as a usufruct, should be created in terms of any of the assets in the estate to the benefit of the surviving spouse. Even with merging of estates the surviving party has the right to accept or reject the mutual will and the resulting merging of estate assets after the death of the first party. It boils down to the fact that, even where merging of estates is determined in the will, the mutual will does not have much value if the surviving party rejects the stipulations of the will after the death of the deceased party.

The way in which the creation of the merge is worded in a will is of extreme importance, as the wrong choice of words could have a major impact on the payment of policies outside the estate which should fall to the surviving party’s lot. The acceptance or rejection of a will in which a merge was created should also be considered carefully, as there are several implications, e.g. Transfer duty, Donations tax and Capital Gains Tax.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

YOUR WILL AND FOREIGN ASSETS

Each country has its own legislation regarding inheritance and signing of wills. It would therefore be possible that your South African will does not comply with all the requirements of the country where your foreign assets are located. This may result in the non-inheritance of your foreign assets in terms of your last will and testament. It is therefore imperative that you should have two wills if you have foreign assets; one for your South African assets and one regarding your foreign assets according to the regulations of the country where these assets are located. It is always important to plan your estate carefully; should you have foreign assets, however, you must take extra care to ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant country’s legislation.

The aim with planning an estate is ultimately to reach your goals in the distribution of your assets and liabilities. These goals should make provision for the management of your estate during your lifetime, but also after your passing.

A further consequence of the increasing exposure to international investments is that South Africans are also exposed to foreign fiduciary services, including wills for their foreign assets.

Whether it is truly necessary to draw up a separate foreign will or just one global will depends on the following:

  • where your foreign assets are located;
  • the nature of the assets and the type of products in which these assets have been invested; and
  • who takes care of the administration of your foreign assets/investments.

Should your South African will be drawn up in Afrikaans, it may be necessary to have it translated and sealed before sending it to the foreign executor/agent. This could be time-consuming and very costly.

A separate foreign will also has other advantages: your foreign will is administered in line and simultaneously with your South African assets; an executor/agent who is familiar with the required procedures in the relevant country where your assets are located will save you time and money; and someone who draws up wills professionally within the jurisdiction of the relevant country can provide you with advice regarding the possible dangers in relation to tax accountability and hereditary succession when it comes to assets outside the borders of South Africa.

Although we would recommend drawing up a second will with reference to foreign assets, we suggest that, should there be any mention of foreign assets, your South African will must be drawn up in English and it should not pertinently refer to the fact that the document is only applicable to your South African assets.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

SHOULD I DRAFT A WILL?

A mother who has always wanted her daughter to inherit her diamond engagement ring may never get her wish if she dies without leaving a valid written will. The mother’s estate would then be distributed in terms of the Intestate Succession Act No. 81 of 1987. 

Taking the time to draft a will can leave you with the peace of mind that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes as far as possible. Your will should reflect exactly how you want your assets to be dealt with after your death and should not be contra bonos mores (against good morals). It should also not amount to “ruling from the grave”.

There are a number of legal requirements that have to be complied with for a will to be valid.  If it does not comply with all of these requirements it could be found to be invalid. Your estate would then also be dealt with in terms of the Intestate Succession Act of 1987. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you obtain the assistance of someone with the necessary specialised skill and knowledge to assist you with the drafting of your will.

A will should also regularly be revised and updated to adapt to your changing circumstances, for example after getting married, and when there is a child on the way. Section 2B of the Wills Act No. 7 of 1953 (as amended by the Law of Succession Act No. 43 of 1992) deals specifically with a change in marital status by way of divorce, and reads as follows:

If any person dies within three months after his marriage was dissolved by a divorce or annulment by a competent court and that person executed a will before the date of such dissolution, that will shall be implemented in the same manner as it would have been implemented if his previous spouse had died before the date of the dissolution concerned, unless it appears from the will that the testator intended to benefit his previous spouse notwithstanding the dissolution of his marriage.”

This can be explained by way of the following example: A and B get divorced and B dies within three months of the date of the divorce. B’s will was executed before they got divorced. Unless B’s will specifically indicated that A must benefit from B’s estate despite the divorce, B’s estate will then be distributed as if A died before they got divorced. A will therefore not inherit from B’s estate in this scenario. However, should B die more than 3 months after the divorce and B’s will, which benefits A, was not changed, then it will be seen as if B intended A to inherit, despite the divorce.

A person who was previously married and who remarries, should ensure that the necessary changes are made to his/her will. If not, this could have profound consequences for the “new” spouse, especially if the will still benefits the spouse from the previous marriage.

When there are minor children in the picture, it is advisable to make adequate provision for their living costs and education in your will. This can be done by creating a testamentary trust of which the minor children can be beneficiaries.

Thinking and talking about one’s passing is not a pleasant subject. Having a valid, clear and unambiguous will can prevent unpleasant family feuds caused by them having to make decisions about the distribution of your estate. It is certainly worth the time and effort to have a valid written will in place.

References:

Drafting of Wills 2013 – LEAD

Intestate Succession Act 81/1987

Wills Act 7/1953

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DIE WITHOUT A WILL?

Attorneys often emphasise the fact that you should have a will drawn up and revise it regularly in order to facilitate the bequeathing of your possessions after your death. Many people still omit to do this. The problem is that, should a person die without leaving a valid will, in other words intestate, his/her estate will be administered and distributed according to the stipulations of the Intestate Succession Act No 81 of 1987.

Below is a basic example of the effect an intestate death will have on the distribution of an estate. Should the composition of the beneficiaries of the deceased be more complex, the administering of the estate in terms of the Intestate Succession Act will also become more complicated.

Let us assume that person A dies and the value of his estate is R1.8 million. He is survived by his wife (B) and 2 children, of which one is of age and the other is a minor.

Scenario 1:

A and B is married out of community of property.

B inherits R125 000 or a child’s portion, whichever is the largest.

A child’s portion is calculated by dividing the total value of the estate by the spouse and number of children, in other words R1.8 million/3 = R600 000.

The spouse and children therefore inherits R600 000 each.

The inheritance of the minor will be paid to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund, as there is no will which determines that the minor heir’s inheritance should be placed in e.g. a Testamentary Trust, where the funds will be administrated on behalf of the minor until he/she becomes of age or reaches any other specified age.

Scenario 2:

A and B is married in community of property.

B inherits 50% of the estate due to the marriage in community of property.

B also inherits R125 000 or a child’s portion, whichever is the largest, with regard to the other half of the estate.

A child’s portion is calculated by dividing half of the total value of the estate by the spouse and number of children, in other words R900 000/3 = R300 000.

The spouse inherits R1.2 million and the children R300 000 each.

The inheritance of the minor will be paid to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund, as there is no will which determines that the minor heir’s inheritance should be placed in e.g. a Testamentary Trust, where the funds will be administrated on behalf of the minor until he/she becomes of age or reaches any other specified age. It is therefore clear that Intestate inheritance may result in an unpractical and often even impracticable division of assets.

The fact that the inheritance of the minor will be paid to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund may place the spouse in such a dilemma that she has to devise plans to finance the amount payable to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund to the benefit of the minor heir. Alternatively she could register a mortgage against an immovable property in favour of the Master’s Guardian’s Fund.

In case of death without a valid will there will of course be no person or institution appointed to support the surviving spouse in the administering of the estate. This should not usually present a huge obstacle, but the spouse should consider carefully which person or institution she appoints to assist her in this task. She should also negotiate the Executor’s fee with the relevant person or institution before the administering of the estate commences.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MOET EK ‘N TESTAMENT HÊ?

‘n Ma se begeerte dat haar dogter haar verloofring erf, sal dalk nie bewaarheid word indien sy nie ‘n geldige, skriftelike testament nalaat nie, aangesien haar boedel dan in terme van die Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging No 81 van 1987 verdeel sal word.

‘n Testament sal jou die gemoedsrus gee dat jou bates sover moontlik volgens jou wense verdeel word en moet weerspieël presies hoe jou bates na jou dood hanteer moet word. Dit mag egter nie contra bonos mores (teen die goeie sedes) wees of neerkom op “regerend uit die graf” nie.

Daar is ‘n aantal wetlike vereistes waaraan ‘n geldige testament moet voldoen. Indien die testament nie aan al hierdie vereistes voldoen nie, kan daar bevind word dat dit ongeldig is en sal jou boedel dan in terme van die Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging van 1987 beredder word. Dit is daarom van die uiterste belang dat iemand met die nodige gespesialiseerde vaardighede en kennis jou bystaan met die opstel van jou testament.

‘n Testament moet ook gereeld hersien en opgedateer word om aan te pas by jou veranderende lewensomstandighede, byvoorbeeld nadat jy in die huwelik getree het of kinders gebore is. Artikel 2B van die Wet op Testamente no 7 van 1953 (soos gewysig deur die Erfreg Wet 43 van 1992) handel spesifiek oor ‘n verandering in huwelikstatus deur middel van ‘n egskeiding en lui soos volg:

“Indien iemand te sterwe kom binne drie maande nadat sy huwelik deur ‘n egskeiding of nietigverklaring deur ‘n bevoegde hof ontbind is en daardie persoon voor die datum van sodanige ontbinding ‘n testament verly het, word uitvoering aan daardie Testament gegee op dieselfde wyse waarop daaraan uitvoering gegee sou word indien sy voormalige gade voor die datum van die betrokke ontbinding oorlede is, tensy uit die Testament blyk dat die erflater ondanks die ontbinding van sy huwelik bedoel het om sy voormalige gade te bevoordeel.”

Hierdie klousule kan deur middel van die volgende voorbeeld verduidelik word: A en B se huwelik ontbind deur ‘n egskeiding en B sterf binne drie maande vanaf die datum van die egskeiding. B se testament is voor die egskeiding opgestel. Tensy B se testament spesifiek aandui dat A bevoordeel moet word uit hoofde van B se boedel ten spyte van die egskeiding, sal B se boedel verdeel word asof A gesterf het voordat hulle geskei het. A sal dus nie van B se boedel erf nie. Sou B egter sterf nadat meer as drie maande verloop het na die egskeiding en B se testament, wat A bevoordeel, is onveranderd, sal dit gesien word asof dit B se bedoeling was om vir A te bevoordeel, ten spyte van die egskeiding.

‘n Persoon wat hertrou, moet verseker dat die nodige veranderinge aan sy/haar testament aangebring word, andersins kan dit ernstige gevolge vir die “nuwe” gade inhou, veral in gevalle waar die testament steeds die eggenoot uit die vorige huwelik bevoordeel.

Wanneer daar minderjarige kinders ter sprake is, is dit raadsaam om voldoende voorsiening in jou testament te maak vir hul lewenskoste en opvoeding. Dit kan gedoen word deur ‘n testamentêre trust te skep waarvan die minderjarige kinders begunstigdes is.

Om oor ‘n mens se afsterwe te dink en praat, is nie maklik nie. Deur egter ‘n geldige, duidelike en ondubbelsinnige testament na te laat, kan onaangename familievetes verhoed word. Dit is beslis die tyd en moeite werd om ‘n geldige testament op te stel.

Verwysings:

Drafting of Wills 2013 – LEAD

Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging 81/1987

Wet op Testamente 7/1953

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies. (E&OE)