DEMYSTIFYING THE EXECUTOR IN A DECEASED ESTATE

During a person’s lifetime s/he will gather assets, in other words, belongings such as a house or a motor vehicle. These assets and liabilities will form part of a person’s estate. At the death of that person, his/her deceased estate must be administered, in other words, divided, distributed and controlled by someone. This person is called an executor.

However, the role of an estate executor and who can be appointed as one has been largely misunderstood.

What does the executor do?

“Executor” is the legal term for referring to the person, or people, nominated in your will to carry out the directives you set out in your will.

  1. This means that it is the executor’s responsibility to disburse your property to the mentioned beneficiaries in your will, but also obtain information on potential heirs, collecting and arranging payments, and approving or disapproving creditors’ claims.
  2. It is the executor’s duty to calculate and pay the estate tax, and to ensure that the correct documentation is filed with the relevant authorities.
  3. The executor is the individual that represents your estate.

Who can be appointed as the executor?

It has become normal to appoint a friend, family member or beneficiary to act as the executor, as they most likely have intimate knowledge of your estate and your affairs, but also, they will not rack up the fees that a legal body might accrue.

However, there is a misconception that you can avoid the fees by appointing a family member as the estate executor, but this could also mean that you are deferring the cost to the nominated family member.

  1. Family members appointed as executors on larger estates immediately find themselves out of their depth, and not only end up hiring a professional executor, but may also pay more for these services than necessary.
  2. A simple way to address this is by appointing a “professional” executor during your lifetime. This allows you to negotiate the executor fees.

If you appoint a family member, make sure that they understand that they will have to appoint a professional agent, and that they should negotiate the fee and be very cautious of agreeing to a fee arrangement in terms of which the professional agent charges their professional fee, instead of the legislated scale.

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 HAPPENS TO MY BANK ACCOUNTS WHEN I DIE?

In previous articles we suggested that the best way to ensure that your assets are distributed as you want them to be distributed, is to draw up and maintain a will. Should you die without a valid will, your assets will be distributed in terms of the Intestate Succession Act? This may result in unpractical distribution of assets and may lead to someone inheriting whom you did not want to inherit.

In your will you have the choice to determine what should be done with your assets. You should also appoint an Executor who will distribute your assets and manage the administrative tasks in order to fulfil the stipulations of the will and finalise the administering of your will.

As mentioned in previous articles, the death must first be reported to the Master of the High Court and the original will (or the lack of relevant required documentation) must be sent to him. The Master will then formally appoint the Executor by sending him an Executor’s letter and allocating a unique estate number to the estate. This estate number will then be used in all future correspondence with and enquiries from the Master’s Office.

What happens to my bank accounts?

The Administration of Estates Act determines that all bank accounts in the name of the deceased should be frozen and closed eventually, therefore it is extremely important that you make provision for your loved ones, so that they will have cash in hand when you pass away. Usually the accounts are frozen immediately after word of the passing has been received, so money can still be deposited, but no withdrawals will be allowed. As soon as the Executor has been appointed he/she should open a new bank account in the name of “Estate Late XYZ” according to the stipulations of the Administration of Estates Act. This is because you leave your assets to what forms your “estate”. A new bank account will be opened by the Executor and all monies of the deceased in any other bank accounts (as well as his/her spouse in the case of a marriage in community of property) will be transferred to the new bank account in the name of the estate. All estate funds will then be administrated in the estate’s bank account by the Executor until the Liquidation account (statement of assets and liabilities) is approved by the Master and has been open for inspection and remained unchallenged. The Executor will then be in a position to proceed with the distribution of estate assets and finalising of the administration of the estate.

Support to the next of kin

It may, however, take anything from 3 weeks to 3 months or longer for the Master of the High Court to formally appoint the Executor. The fact that the Administration of Estates Act requires that all bank accounts be frozen as soon as possible after date of death may result in the next of kin or other financially dependent parties not being able to access the funds of the deceased while awaiting the appointment of the Executor. In case of a marriage in community of property the bank accounts in the name of the surviving spouse will also be frozen and closed, according to the stipulations of the Administration of Estates Act, which may have dramatic consequences. Once the Executor has been appointed, he/she may start administering the estate assets, and only then will he/she be in a position to consider interim advances against inheritance. We therefore urge you to make provision for the time following your passing, so that your next of kin have money available for their immediate needs.

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)

CAPITAL GAINS TAX AND THE SALE OF A PROPERTY

Capital Gains Tax was introduced on 1 October 2001. Capital Gains Tax is payable on the profit a seller makes when disposing of his property.

What is meant by Capital Gain?

A person’s capital gain on an asset disposed of is the amount by which the proceeds exceed the base cost of that asset.

What is base cost?

The base cost of an asset is what you paid for it, plus the expenditure. The following can be included in calculating the base cost:

  1. The costs of acquiring the property, including the purchase price, transfer costs, transfer duty and professional fees e.g. attorney’s fees and fees paid to a surveyor and auctioneer.
  2. The cost of improvements, alterations and renovations which can be proved by invoices and/or receipts.
  3. The cost of disposing of the property, e.g. advertising costs, cost of obtaining a valuation for capital gains purposes, and estate agents’ commission.

How was base cost of assets held calculated before 1 October 2001?

If the property was acquired before 1 October 2001 you may use one of the following methods to value the property:

  1. 20% x (proceeds less expenditure incurred on or after 1 October 2001).
  2. The market value of the asset as at 1 October 2001, which valuation must have been obtained before 30 September 2004.
  3. Time-apportionment  base cost method. (Original cost + (proceeds – original cost) x number of years held before 1 October 2001) divided by (the number of years held before 1 October 2001 + number of years held after 1 October 2001).

How is Capital Gains Tax paid?

Capital Gains Tax is not a separate tax from income tax. Part of a person’s capital gain is included in his taxable income. It is then subject to normal tax. A portion of the total of the taxpayer’s capital gain less capital losses for the year is included in the taxpayer’s taxable income and taxed in terms of normal tax tables.

How is Capital Gain calculated?

If you are an individual, the first R30 000 of your total capital gain will be disregarded. Then 33.3% of the capital gain made on disposal of the property must be included in the taxable income for the year of assessment in which the property is sold. When the property is owned by a company, a close corporation or an ordinary trust, 66.6% of the capital gain must be included in their taxable income.

Primary residence and Capital Gains Tax

As from 1 March 2012 the first R2 million of any capital gain on the sale of a primary residence is exempted from Capital Gains Tax. This exemption only applies where the property is registered in the name of an individual or in the name of a special trust. The property should furthermore not exceed 2 hectares. If the property is used partially for residential and partially for business purposes, an apportionment must be done.

If more than one person holds an interest in a primary residence, the exclusion will be in proportion to the interest held by each party. For example, if you and your spouse have an equal interest in the primary residence, you will each qualify for a primary residence exclusion of R1 million. You will also be entitled to the annual exclusion, currently R30 000.

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)