What are the factors that cause delays in the administration of an estate and how can the process be expedited?

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The average time it takes to wind up an estate is 6 months, but in extreme cases it may even take years to finalize.

Factors that can cause delays:

  • The absence of a valid will.
  • The pressure of work overload experienced bylocal authorities which lead to delays in the issuing of municipal clearance figures.
  • Outstanding tax returns.
  • When title deeds are missing and duplicates must be requested.
  • Cash shortfalls and the associated or subsequent sale of estate assets.
  • Unnatural deaths, which mean waiting for post-mortem reports from the police.
  • The redistribution of assets.
  • The transfer of firearms.
  • The acquisition of balance sheets.
  • The acquisition of a valuation of shares for estate duty purposes.
  • Pending Court Cases.
  • Maintenance Claims.
  • Divorce orders that have not been adhered to.
  • The tracing of heirs.
  • Complicated business interests for which no proper estate planning had been done.
  • Having to transfer funds to heirs who now live abroad and no longer have South African bank accounts.
  • The illegal occupation of residential properties and associated eviction orders.

Expedite the process by doing the following:

  • Conduct proper estate planning and ensure you have a valid will.
  • Provide correct and complete information from the outset.
  • Take out insurance policies to prevent cash shortages in your estate.
  • Ensure that your will is valid and enforceable.
  • Keep all important documents, such as insurance policies, investment documents, title deeds and bank statements in a safe place.
  • Ensure that your original will is kept in safe keeping.

For any further information or assistance, contact our highly skilled Estates staff at 044 601 9900 or office@rgprok.co.za.  Get your online Will on our Will Page.

ESTATE PLANNING – A WAY TO REDUCE THE COST OF DEATH

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Let’s be honest, estate planning and the drafting or revision of one’s last will and testament is a daunting task which forces us to think about our own mortality – a thought which we would rather avoid.

However, the death of a loved one is a traumatic and emotionally turbulent burden for any family to bear and is often compounded by the high cost of death. Albeit that our mortality is beyond our control – the cost implication of our death on our loved ones is not - it is something which, through proper estate planning, can be effectively managed.

Costs at death can be widely grouped into two categories – administration costs, which are usually incurred after death and claims against the estate, which usually consist of those liabilities for which the deceased was liable as at date of death.

Administration costs include executor’s fees, costs of security, conveyancing fees (transfer and bond cancellation costs), advertising costs, master’s fees, appraisement costs, bank charges, accountant’s fees and the cost of realising or liquidating assets.

Executor’s fees are, in absence of the will stating otherwise, currently 3.5% of the gross estate value. If the executor is VAT registered, VAT at 14% will also be charged. Executors are furthermore entitled to 6% on income earned in the estate after death.

Claims against the estate vary depending on the deceased’s specific circumstances but will generally include financial liabilities such as credit cards, overdraft facilities, mortgage bonds, personal loans, vehicle and asset finance and store cards. Other claims may include maintenance and accrual claims, funeral expenses, medical costs and rates and taxes payable in advance with the transfer of property.

Credit life insurance, funeral policies and life insurance may all serve as possibly simple and affordable relief to a cash deficit in an estate.
 
The entirely amended section 25 and new section 9HA of the Income Tax Act No. 58 of 1962 which impact directly on the taxation of deceased persons and deceased estates makes tax liability more present and real than ever before. The addition of section 7C to the Income Tax Act has also resulted in many having to revise their wills and the use of trusts as an estate planning tool and of course, the risk of estate duty liability remains ever present.

All of the above administration costs and claims need to be paid in cash. A solvent estate is not necessarily a liquid estate. When there is a cash shortfall which the heirs are not able to supplement, the executor may be forced to sell estate assets – of which many are often high value assets being realised to supplement a much smaller cash deficit. The realisation of these assets may often also give rise to a capital gains tax implication which in effect will increase the estate’s tax liability and cash deficit. Needless to say, the cost of realising these assets, for example auctioneer or estate agent fees are not to be forgotten.

The good news is that through efficient estate planning, one is able to circumvent some and substantially reduce many of these costs and ensure sufficient provision for those which are inevitable.

Unfortunately many people underestimate the cost of dying and fail to observe proper estate planning practices. It’s never too early or too late to begin estate planning. By reviewing your will and estate plan on a regular basis you could not only save time and money but also, spare your loved ones the burden of unnecessarily high estate costs and the emotional trauma associated therewith.
 
Should you require any assistance or further information, kindly contact one of our Estate Planning specialists at office@rgprok.co.za or 044 601 9900.

Written by Kelly Fourie-Barnard.

 

SLIP and FALL - LIABILITY CASE OR NOT?

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I walk into the supermarket to do some shopping. Someone has dropped a bottle in one of the aisles. The cleaners have already started cleaning the floor with a mop. I walk across the slippery surface, my foot slips and I fall. Do I have a claim against the supermarket owners and if so what kind of claim? The answer to this question is not always obvious.

It is generally accepted that customers in a public place such as a supermarket should be able to enjoy undisturbed shopping and that there should be no obstacles that could cause them injury. Liability is however not always a foregone conclusion and some challenges may arise when attempting to prove liability in a court of law.

Although the general rule is that the supermarket owner must ensure that situations which could cause injury to the customer do not come about, it is only human that such situations will nonetheless arisefrom time to time. It is the duty of the owner of the supermarket to ensure that the customer is properly warned against the impending danger. The owner could and probably should, for example, take measures to demarcate or cordon off the dangerous area until the area is safe. At the same time, the client should be mindful of where he/she walks and cannot complain about being injured whilst in a dangerous place if he/she was aware of such danger. .

Furthermore, a causal nexus must exist between the damage or injury suffered and the negligence of the supermarket owner. For example, if I fall and break my ankle, I cannot then also make a claim for the hip replacement that I had to undergo a year ago.

General damages that include pain, suffering, discomfort and emotional shock may be claimed. This type of damages is abstract in nature and is determined by looking at previous court cases where persons suffered similar types of injuries. Medical expenses and loss of income are further possible damages that may be proved. In addition thereto, a person may also claim for future medical expenses and future loss of income. The last mentioned types of damages are normally proven by presenting expert reports and evidence.

If a customer breaks his glasses or damages a cell phone in the process, he / she may also claim the repair or replacement value of such item.

For more information, contact Barend Kruger at 044 601 9900 or e-mail to office@rgprok.co.za.