(By Brandon Garbutt – Managing Director Capital Legacy)

Diego Maradona was touted as one of the greatest footballers to have ever lived. His professional career, however, was tainted by controversy none of which was greater than the “Hand of God” goal that helped Argentina beat England in the quarter finals match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. The game ended with a 2–1 win for the Argentines, thanks to a second goal scored by Maradona, known as the “Goal of the Century”.

His private life was no less tumultuous with marriage, divorce, girlfriends, numerous children, battles with drug addictions, bankruptcy, fame, fortune and more.

On the 25th of November 2020, Maradona succumbed to heart failure, according to a source from the Argentinian Justice Ministry. To cap off a life of drama, he did not have a Last Will & Testament in place dealing with his $90mil estate. Very quickly there seems to be a battle brewing between his heirs and alleged heirs that could take years to resolve in the courts.

Reading this, you may think it’s irresponsible for Maradona not to have had a Will in place, but did you know that nearly 75% of South Africans also pass away without a Will? Granted, most don’t have a multimillion-dollar estate to leave behind. However, the average middle-class South African family still needs to deal with property, loans, bank accounts, cars, investments, savings and pension funds. The distribution of an estate gets even more complicated when there’s been a divorce, remarriage and potentially children from different partners. The last thing you want is to leave your estate in the hands of the government to administer – unfortunately this is what far too many people do.

What happens if you die without a Will?

If you died without a Will in South Africa, your estate would be administered in terms of the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987. ‘Intestate succession’ means that your property, any assets you own and your money would be passed on according to the will of the state and not necessarily how you would have wanted it.

Intestate succession can be relatively complicated but basically means that if you died without a Will, your property and assets will be passed on in one of the following ways:

  • If you were married, but had no children, your spouse would inherit everything.
  • If you had a spouse and children, your estate would be divided among them according to a specific formula. Your spouse would inherit R250 000 or a child’s share, whichever is greater.
  • If you had no spouse and no children, but are survived by your parents, they would inherit your estate in equal shares. If you only had one surviving parent, they would inherit half of your estate and the other half would be inherited by your siblings. If you had no siblings, your full estate will pass to your surviving parent.
  • If you had no surviving parents, your estate would be divided equally among your siblings. If you had no surviving parents and no brothers and sisters, other nearest blood relations such as nephews and nieces would inherit in equal shares.
  • Suppose you had no surviving relatives, and no legitimate heir comes forward after 30 years; in that case your estate’s proceeds will devolve on the state.

More than just managing assets!

 What most people fail to realise is that your Will does more than simply manage the distribution of your estate. It brings clarity, order, simplicity and logic. It brings peace of mind.

 For example, the paragraphs above cover dividing an estate between spouse and children. What happens if the bulk of the estate is in property and a car, which is often the case? This means that the executor now needs first to sell off assets, liquidate the estate, pay off costs and only then start to distribute. The problem is that your spouse may still be living in the property and may suddenly find himself or herself without a home or car – simply so the Executor can liquidate and distribute according to intestate succession rules.

What also often happens, as in Maradona’s case, is that people come out of the woodwork and start to contest for a share of the inheritance. This creates huge drama and delays the process significantly and increases the costs of administration and legal fees. In some cases estates can become insolvent through onerous legal battles. The inevitable losers are the loved ones you worked your whole life to provide for.

A Will is a simple and straightforward document to draft with the right professional advice and help. It protects your loved ones from unnecessary heartache and costs and ensures that the right people benefit as quickly and efficiently as possible. It minimises state intervention and shows your family that you have taken the time to think about the future and the legacy you wish to leave behind.

Unfortunately, Maradona’s last chance at leaving a positive legacy for his loved ones is now in his lawyer’s hands and all those that wish to lay claim to their share of his estate. Nonetheless, he will still be remembered as a hero to millions of football fans and one of Argentina’s favourite sons.

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