What happens if a person dies without a will in South Africa?
Estate planning is a crucial part of your financial journey, and at the heart of this lies the last will and testament.
But what happens if a person dies without a will in South Africa? Without a will – or even with an invalid or outdated will – the law of intestate succession will apply, according to the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987. This means your estate will be divided according to a set formula and based on which relatives are alive at the time of your passing.
If you die without a will and have no one to inherit in terms of the Act, the money in the deceased estate will be placed in the Government Guardians’ Fund. If no heirs come forward to claim the money within 30 years, the funds will be forfeited to the state.
Additionally, with no will, there would have been no appointment of an executor. The intestate heirs may nominate a person to be appointed as the executor, however, the final decision still lies with the Master of the High Court.
And what about your children? One of the major consequences of dying without a will concerns guardianship. Your wishes might not be considered and the children might be placed in the care of someone you didn’t intend them to be placed with.
Even the children’s inheritance will be at risk. You might have wanted to place the children’s inheritances into a trust, for example, to only be paid out when they reach the age of 25 years. However, without a will the inheritance will be paid out to the Government Guardian’s Fund and could take years to eventually pay out to the children.
Other than weaving a web of inheritance pitfalls, there are many more consequences of dying without a will. The importance of having a valid and updated will cannot be overestimated. Here’s why:
Avoid family disputes: A well-drafted will can prevent family infighting and ensure that each beneficiary knows precisely what they will inherit.
Efficient estate administration: Nominating an executor in your will streamlines the estate administration process and ensures that someone you trust manages your affairs upon your passing.
To further highlight the importance of having a will, consider the peace of mind you will have and how it will serve as a vital legacy for your loved ones, sparing them unnecessary worry and financial hardships in the future.
At Capital Legacy, we offer complimentary will-drafting consultations to help you create a comprehensive will tailored to your unique circumstances. Speak to your financial advisor or contact us to secure your legacy.