What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

Sep 18, 2022 | Life

No one really wants to think about their own mortality, but it’s a fact of life. One day, we all will pass away and how we plan for what happens next can have a huge impact on those we leave behind.

Unfortunately, because it’s not something that we like to think about, many people avoid getting round to making a Will. Without a valid Will, however, there can be some awful consequences for your loved ones.

What is intestate?

A person who dies without leaving a valid Will is called an intestate person. So, when a person dies intestate, their property (also referred to as their estate) will be shared out according to the rules of intestacy.

The 5 rules of intestacy

In South Africa, if you die without a Will then your estate will be administered under the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 – typically referred to as the rules of intestate succession.

Simply, because you haven’t laid out what you want to happen to your estate after you have died, the Act sets out certain rules that help the Government distribute your estate.

There are 5 rules:

  1. If you, as the deceased, are survived by only your spouse then your spouse will inherit everything.
  2. Where you, as the deceased, are survived by only descendants, your estate will be equally distributed between these people.
  3. In the case where you have a spouse and descendants, then your spouse will get a child share or R250 000 (whichever is bigger), and the balance will be distributed equally between the descendants.
  4. If you, as the deceased, have no spouse or descendants, then your parents, aunts and uncles, and siblings will inherit the estate in equal shares.
  5. Now, if you have no spouse, descendants, aunts and uncles, and siblings, then your closest relatives will inherit in equal shares.

Wondering what happens if there are no known relatives? In that case, all the proceeds from your estate will be placed in the Government’s Guardian’s Fund for a period of 30 years. This money will then go to the State if it isn’t claimed by any possible heirs during this time.

So, what do these rules mean?

Your loved ones will experience a deep sense of heartache over your passing, but this grief stricken time will most assuredly be worsened by not knowing what your final wishes were.

This is perhaps the biggest consequence of not having a Will – you won’t be able to choose who looks after your children (if you have any) and who inherits what. It could even mean that people whom you don’t want to benefit from your estate, could inherit. At this point, the Act comes into play and distributes your property accordingly.

Here are 4 more consequences from dying intestate:

  • Your Children: You can’t choose who looks after them and their inheritance could pass to the Guardian’s Fund or appointed Guardian instead of into a Trust for them.
  • Your Partner: This significant person in your life may be left with nothing if you weren’t married or your Will isn’t updated from a previous marriage.
  • Family Feuds: Family members tend to fight over the distribution of an estate when final wishes aren’t clearly documented.
  • It Can Take Years: In reality, wrapping up your estate can take years without a Will, especially because without an appointed professional Will Executor, the Government will be in control of the process.

Get a free Will

Ultimately, it is advisable to have a Will, drafted by a professional in the field. This way, you can set out how you wish your estate to be divided in the event of your death, you can prevent further emotional stress for your loved ones, and you can make sure that unnecessary costs and delays in winding up your estate are avoided.

Our goal is to make sure that you have all the information you need for a variety of important responsibilities, such as drafting a Will, and where we can, we want to give you access to tools and resources that will help you further. If you want to get a free Will drawn up (yes, for free), then click here, and don’t forget that we also have a number of other tools and resources, including calculators, property valuation reports, multiple car and home insurance quotes, and much more for you to explore.

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