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)

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)

THE HEAVY COSTS OF SETTLING AN ESTATE

If you have never planned your estate, perhaps now is a good time to consider it. This will be to you and your family’s benefit, as there are often hidden costs which come into effect at the time of passing, that are not taken into account when you plan your estate and inheritance.

Expenses when an estate comes into effect

  1. Estate duty
  2. Executor’s fee
  3. Capital Gains Tax

These costs have a direct impact on the cash balance of the estate. Questions arise of whether there will be enough cash to enable the executor to administer the estate without having to sell estate assets. This can slow down the administering process of the estate considerably with potential detriment to the heirs.

Settling the estate’s expenses

The care of the dependents will be influenced because the above-mentioned costs will have to be settled from the estate cash. This may result in the spouse and children inheriting less than what the testator had planned. The person who gets the worst of it is the person who lives longest, because he/she usually inherits the remaining estate cash.

Unfortunately, the fact that you have a judicially sound will may not necessarily provide the answers to these questions. Thorough estate planning will be needed in order to find the answers. The stipulations of the will must be tested against the aforementioned costs, after which the necessary changes can be made to produce a cost-effective will. The will’s lay-out will therefore have a direct impact on the costs. If you spend time to ensure that your will is in order in all aspects, it will limit the grief when you are no longer there to set things straight.

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)