Chikane family feud highlights the importance of making and filing a will
“Even if there is no will and there are assets or belongings that were left behind by the deceased, family members are still legally obliged to report it to the Master of the High Court’s offices so a Deceased Estate file can be opened.”
Hanekom said house disputes are one of the biggest problems in South Africa due to a lack of knowledge of the law on wills, estates and inheritances.
“It is in Thabile’s best interests to see an attorney as quickly as possible.
“She should not sign anything until she knows what the will said.
“In the absence of a will, what the law allows her to inherit in terms of the Intestate Succession Act.
“If the other siblings refuse to show her the will, she can approach a court on application to force them to give her a copy and she can also obtain an interdict to stop them from unlawfully transferring the property.
“If the will does not adhere to the formality requirements, it is invalid. However, one can also bring an application to court with evidence to try and prove that this will should be accepted as the last will and testament of the deceased,” said Hanekom.
Hanekom shares tips to avoid such disputes over estates of the deceased.
Everyone must make a will, in writing, to ensure that his/her estate is dealt with and wound up in accordance with his/her wishes after death.
Ensure a legal practitioner or a person knowledgeable about formalities on how to write a will, assists you.
Don’t draft the will on your own - the formalities must be adhered to otherwise the will is invalid. For instance, it must be in writing, it must be signed by yourself and two competent witnesses on each page and close to the end of the writing or typing on the last page. There are other dos and don’ts that apply by law.
Once a will is made, go to your nearest Master’s office and lodge a copy with it. It is advisable to give a copy to an attorney, or trustworthy family member or friend, so someone cannot fraudulently falsify a will after your death.
You can change your will at any time and as many times. As long as you adhere to all the requirements and revoke any previous wills, the last will you made will be the one to be followed.
A valid will that is drafted correctly must be followed. Anyone has the right to give an inheritance from his/her estate to any person or entity of his/her choice. (This can lead to heartache and bitterness if people who believe the deceased would bequeath something to them, find out that all the assets and money were left to someone else. In law, there is nothing preventing a person from disinheriting someone.)
Appoint a trustworthy person to be the executor of your estate.
Families often become enemies when there is money or assets to be inherited.
Any attorney should be able to advise and do the necessary to avoid disputes.
The Master’s office is the controlling body as well as the repository of information on deceased estates. If there is a dispute and you do not have an attorney, go to them and ask for help.