When a person dies without a valid Will, that person has effectively not left their instructions or wishes as to how they want their estate to be distributed. In this instance, the Master of the High Court will appoint an Executor to distribute the Estate in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987.
“In accordance with the Intestate Succession Act” means that the deceased’s estate will be distributed in one of the following ways:
- If the deceased is survived by only his spouse, the spouse will inherit the entire estate. “Spouse” includes a partner in a permanent same-sex life partnership in which the parties have undertaken reciprocal duties of support, spouse married in terms of a monogamous or polygamous Muslim marriage, and each surviving spouse of a polygamous union in accordance with customary law.
The term “spouse” does not include hetrosexual cohabitants or for more common use of term – “common law spouse”. This term is a fallacy and is not recognised in South African Law. Should you choose not to formally marry your partner and you subsequently die without a valid Will then your partner will not be entitled to inherit intestate. To avoid this potential prejudice, a universal partnership agreement or life partnership agreement should be considered.
- If the deceased is survived by only his descendants, the descendants will inherit the estate in equal shares.
“Descendants” include the following:
i) Illegitimate children can inherit from both their natural parents and blood relations.
ii) An adopted child is the descendant of the adoptive parents and not their natural parents.
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse and descendants, the spouse will inherit the greater of R125 000.00 (one hundred and twenty five thousand rand) or a child’s share and the descendants will inherit the residue in equal shares.
“Child’s share” is calculated by dividing the value of the estate by the number of children plus the number of surviving spouses.
- If the deceased does not leave a spouse or descendants, the deceased’s parents will inherit the estate in equal shares.
- Should the circumstance of the deceased not mirror any of the above and there is no heir in the deceased’s direct line, the general rule that the nearest blood relation shall inherit will apply.
A person will go through their life attempting to control every aspect of it, why should it be any different after you pass away. Take control of your estate and protect the ones you love.