Deceased estates – disputes

disputes over a deceased relative’s estate
22 May 2018
 

If someone leaves a sizeable estate behind, it may cause conflict among the possible heirs. The help of an attorney, when settling an estate after a death, can avoid unnecessary troubles.

The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, determines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process is legal. However, if the estate is worth a lot of money or the deceased has children, then it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney, as family disputes and debts of the deceased can be confusing. In order to do this an executor will be appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

Finding the will of a deceased relative

If the deceased person left a will the first thing to do is find it. If they did not tell you beforehand where their will was, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the office of the Master of the High Court to check if they have a copy of the will. Other places to call would be the deceased’s life insurance company, bank or lawyer. Otherwise, the deceased might have left a copy of it somewhere secure in their home.

Who is the executor?

An executor is the person appointed to handle the process of settling the estate. The executor will either be mentioned in the will of the deceased or appointed by the Master of the High Court. The Master will ultimately decide who will take the role of executor. If the chosen executor doesn’t know how to handle the estate or is unfamiliar with the legal procedure, he or she can go to a lawyer for help. Once the executor has been chosen, the Master will give them “Letters of Executorship”, which will give only them the authority to handle the estate.

What does the executor need to do?

The executor has several responsibilities such as arranging the valuation of the estate’s property and assets. They will also be responsible for contacting and dealing with all the beneficiaries.

Some other responsibilities of the executor include:

•    Arranging provisional payments for the family’s immediate needs.
•    Opening a bank account for the estate and depositing the estates money in it.
•    Paying all the necessary estate duties.

It’s important that any person who wants to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate have the Letters of Executorship. If not, their actions would be considered illegal. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased person. This eliminates the possibility of several different family members trying to influence the estate’s dealings. The executor will also decide how the assets will be divided between the heirs and if any or all assets need to be sold. If a will is in place the executor will base his/her decisions on it.

Eventually, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This would include what they intend to do with all the assets left after expenses. This account would be delivered to the Master, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of the deceased and that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Important things to keep in mind?

The Master of the High Court should be notified of the deceased person’s estate not later than 14 days after the death. According to the Department of Justice, the death of anyone who owned property in South Africa must be reported to the Master, whether or not they died in the country.

All estates that exceed R50 000 should be reported to the Master of the High Court directly because magistrate’s offices have limited jurisdiction. If reported to the magistrate’s office, estates will usually be referred to the Master.

References

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2012. “Reporting the estate of the deceased”. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/services/report-estate.html/ on 11/05/2016.

Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/ on 11/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Public warning

Public warning

BEWARE OF THIS ATTORNEY: MS SHAIK, NIRVANA, POLOKWANE

SHAIK MS

FOUND IN POSSESSION OF STOLEN TITLE DEED                                                                          IN CONTEMPT OF HIGH COURT ORDER TO RETURN SAME TO THE OWNER

Linkedin profile: Mohamed Salim Shaik

Senior Attorney at M S Shaik Inc

M S SHAIK Inc

Polokwane Area, South Africa

 

Magistrate to face criminal charges

 

Now practising as attorney Shaik

Various cases of theft/fraud under investigation

CAS 673/09/2015 SAPS POLOKWANE

CAS 484/11/2017

LATEST CAS 50/02/2018 SAPS SILVERTON

 

Forged signatures and fraud alleged as Hawks and NPA probe disputed will. 

The late Akbar Ali Ayob was a respected accountant and business advisor in Polokwane, the sort of man one would expect to leave his affairs in impeccable order. But his sudden death from a heartattack on 4 July 2013 triggered a bitter court battle over his estate which continues to this day – in the process, putting the reputations of several pillars of the local establishment on the line.

Contenders for the estate are, on one hand, his life-partner of 30 years Hilda Watkins and their three children (two at university, the youngest in matric) and on the other, are the deceased’s brother and sister, Mohamed and Halima Ayob. Mohamed is the imam of a local mosque; Hilda is a shop assistant working at one of the businesses owned by Akbar.

Although Ayob and his family lived a frugal and simple lifestyle, Hilda and the three children were well taken care of and the children received a good education. During his career as an accountant, Ayob accumulated a considerable fortune through a number of astute business ventures and investments in shares, unit trusts and properties. The exact value of the estate has yet to be disclosed due to the pending civil and criminal cases but is expected to amount to several million rand.

 

Magistrate to face criminal charges

Police confirmed that a case of fraud and misrepresentation of forged documents, allegedly involving a local magistrate, is being investigated. The magistrate recently presided over the bail application in a murder case which has sent shockwaves through the city.
The magistrate, who cannot be named as he has not officially been charged nor appeared in court, was allegedly involved in the fraudulent undersigning of a last will and testament of a local businessman who died in July 2013.
A relative of the deceased who presented Polokwane Observer with documentation last week confirmed that the family has opened a case of fraud at the Polokwane Police Station after a handwriting expert in the South African Police Service classified the signature on the testament to have been forged and a High Court ordered that the testament be declared null and void. The magistrate was allegedly appointed in 2013 as executor of the will which named the deceased’s brother and sister as only beneficiaries.
Other family members disputed the validity of the testament and approached the courts demanding that it be declared null and void with costs to the respondents in the case.
The complainants also approached a handwriting expert who was furnished with a copy of the testament allegedly signed by the deceased on 29 June 2013 six days before his death. In his report the expert stated that he also received specimen signatures of the deceased from the family in the form of hospital receipts, a college registration contract, security job card, security agreement and bank documents originally signed by the deceased.
“The will contains two disputed signatures of the testator. The original will was examined by me on 27 September 2013. I was requested to examine the disputed signatures of the deceased on the will and compare it with the known specimen,” the report stated.
In the opinion of the handwriting expert and based on all the discovered factual physical evidence he reported: “I reached a qualified and conclusive opinion. The disputed signatures of the deceased on the will respectively were in fact not created (beyond any reasonable doubt) by the author of the specimen signatures and are therefore all classified as forgeries.”
After the matter came before court on several occasions and the court heard the handwriting expert’s evidence, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that the testament be suspended on 16 February this year which then left the family with no choice but to open a case of fraud against the magistrate.
Polokwane Police Head of Communications, Ntobeng Phala confirmed that the case of fraud and misrepresentation of forged documents is under investigation. “The investigating officer is still obtaining statements from involved parties. As soon as the investigation is complete, the docket will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision,” he said.

 

 

Trust

Trust

“My wife and I are discussing providing for the creation of a testamentary trust in our will to take care of our minor children upon our untimely death. I’m worried though that if we establish a trust, it may be too rigid to deal with the changing circumstances of our children. Can the trust be changed after our death should it be necessary to do so?”

A testamentary trust or trust mortis causa is established in a will and comes into effect upon the death of the testator (founder) of the will. Such trusts are typically used to protect the interests of minors or dependants who are unable to take care of themselves. Some or all of the assets in the estate are upon the death of the testator moved to the trust which is administered by trustees on behalf of the beneficiaries. A testamentary trust often terminates at a pre-determined time or event, for example when the beneficiaries reach a certain age.

As a rule of thumb the terms of a testamentary trust cannot be amended. The Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1988 (“the Act”) does grant our Courts the power to amend a trust deed, where for example a provision brings about consequences which in the opinion of the court, the founder of a trust did not contemplate or foresee and which hampers the achievement of the object of the founder, prejudices the interest of the beneficiaries or is in conflict with the public interest.

Accordingly, in a recent High Court decision, it was found that a variation of the provisions of a testamentary trust (brought about by agreement between the trustee and the beneficiaries) was valid. Despite the fact that a trust is of testamentary origin, it does not prevent the trustees and beneficiaries from agreeing to an amendment. The court further stated that if the testamentary trust also confers on a trustee the power to decide when to terminate the trust, it also implies that the trustee has the power to amend the trust deed.

The provisions of the Act which requires a trustee to, in exercising his powers, act with the care, diligence and skill which can reasonably be expected of a person who manages the affairs of another, still applies, and should a trustee decide to amend the provisions of the trust, the trustee will need to exercise his authority in accordance with the Act.

It is therefore possible that your trust provisions may be varied after your death. We would advise to enlist the help of your estate planner to ensure that your testamentary trust provisions are appropriately wide to provide sufficient scope to the trustees to manage (and if necessary amend) the trust in changing circumstances in a manner that is acceptable to you.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin

What happens to my Bitcoins when I die?
08 March 2018
 
“I’ve started buying Bitcoins as a form of investment. I am aware that is a virtual currency and that different rules apply to Bitcoins. But I’m know starting to wonder how I can ensure that I transfer my Bitcoins to my heirs when I die?”

Bitcoin is essentially a digital payment network where Bitcoin currency is stored and transferred. A Bitcoin is a form of digital token that you can send or receive electronically, but is does not come in set amounts like a physical currency does, and can be divided up to 8 decimal places, meaning that the smallest amount you can send is 0.00000001 Bitcoins. The value of a Bitcoin also changes in much the same way that the value of stocks change based on bidding.

Bitcoins are protected by powerful cryptography which makes it a secure way to store your wealth, but it also creates the risk that when you die, it will be out of reach for your heirs.

Bitcoins are stored in a virtual wallet which uses a string of random characters called a “public key”. The public key is visible to anyone as an address for sending and receiving the cryptocurrency. A separate “private key” however allows the owner access to the wallet’s contents. This means that when you die, your heirs may discover your Bitcoin wallet, but will be unable to gain access thereto without the private key.

The easiest way to ensure that your Bitcoins can be transferred to your heirs is to ensure that someone has a copy of the private key by writing it down, storing it on a memory drive or entrusting it with a company or a trusted financial advisor or attorney who can give it to your family after your death.

It is also a good idea to bequeath your Bitcoins formally in your will and identify who has a copy of the private key. Although it won’t form part of the physical assets of your estate to be administered, this will help ensure that there is no uncertainty as to whom you wanted to gain access to your wallet after your death.

I would suggest discussing your Bitcoin portfolio with your estate planner with a view to formally providing therefore in your will.

 

Lapsed firearm licence

Lapsed firearm licence
 

“I own a firearm which has always been validly licenced. I was out of the country for a few months with work this year and was unable to renew my licence before its expiry in June. On my return I went to the police, but they told me that because my licence was not timeously renewed it was now invalid and that my possession of the firearm is now illegal. Is this the case? Surely I have a valid excuse for not having renewed my licence?”

Renewal of firearm licences is governed by section 24 of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (“the Act”), which stipulates that the holder of a firearm licence who wishes to renew his licence must apply to the Registrar of Firearms (“the Registrar”) at least 90 days before the expiry date. In a recent High Court judgment, the constitutionality of section 24 and section 28 dealing with the termination of a firearm licence, was questioned.

It was contended in court that these sections caused confusion for firearm owners in respect of their obligations under the Act, in that if a person has not applied for renewal of his firearm licence and the 90 day period has lapsed, there is no way that he could renew or apply to renew his firearm licence and was therefore in unlawful possession of the firearm with no means to rectify the situation. Additionally, although section 28 of the Act provides for amongst others, procedures for the cancellation of a firearm licence and a declaration by the Registrar or a Court that a firearm holder is unfit to possess a licence, the section does not provide any process which ought to be followed by firearm owners whose licences have terminated due to effluxion of time, nor does it provide clarity as to how and where to surrender their firearm, should their licence be invalid due to such expiry.

Likewise, a person who has been declared unfit to possess a firearm is required to be given 30 days’ notice in writing of such declaration and intention to invalidate their firearm licence and is permitted to provide reasons why their licence should not be invalidated. There is no similar provision in the Act for a firearm licence holder whose licence has terminated due to effluxion of time, despite the fact that valid reasons could exist for the failure to renew the licence.

In the absence of proper procedures for the renewal of firearm licences, the court declared sections 24 and 28 unconstitutional and ordered that the Act be amended by Parliament within 18 months to address this aspect. In the interim the Court held that all firearms issued in terms of the Act, which are or were due to be renewed, shall be deemed to be valid. This order is at present suspended pending confirmation by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the particular sections.

Against this background it means that there is a good chance that the expiry of your licence may not be valid and we would recommend that you ask your attorney for assistance with formulating the necessary correspondence to the Registrar explaining your reasons for not having renewed your licence in light of the High Court decision.

George Kleynhans

http://www.attorneys24.net                       http://www.ilaw.co.za                         

http://www.attorneys.web.za               http://www.attorney.net.za

 

water meter

water meter
Who must prove that the water meter is not working?
16 November 2017
 
“I’ve really tried to cut down on my water consumption and over the last year it‘s been very low. However, over the past 3 months my municipal water accounts suddenly more than tripled. Knowing this cannot be right I queried my accounts with the municipality. They said the consumption was correct according to my water meter and I must pay or my water would be cut off. The only explanation I have is that the water meter is not working correctly. But whose responsibility is it to verify this?”

Our courts recently had to address a similar set of facts in the case of Euphorbia (Pty) Ltd t/a Gallagher Estates v City of Johannesburg. In this case, the applicant (Gallagher Estates) was sued by the municipality for several million rand which the municipality alleged was owed to it as a result of water and sewage charges due and payable by Gallagher Estates to the municipality. Gallagher Estate’s response was that the charges that the municipality was seeking to recover were based on a faulty water meter and accordingly that these amounts were not lawfully owing.

One of the issues before the court was whether the duty of proving that the consumer was incorrectly billed lies on the consumer or whether proving that the consumer was correctly billed lies on the municipality.

In the case it was found that Gallagher Estates was legally not allowed to remove and test the meter because the legal entitlement was reserved for the municipality. Accordingly, because the applicant was not in the possession of all the information that it needed to prove that the meter was not functioning properly due to the fact that only the municipality was legally entitled to remove and test the meter, it would be unfair in law to burden the applicant with the responsibility of proving that the meter was not functioning as it would be much easier for the municipality to prove that the meter was working than for the consumer to prove that it was not.

From this case it can be deduced that in metering disputes with a municipality it is not the consumer’s responsibility to prove that the charges billed are wrong or based on a non-functioning meter. It is rather the municipality’s responsibility to first prove that the charges are correct and based on a functioning meter. If a consumer disputes the alleged consumption and lodges a query, the burden then rests on the municipality to investigate the issue, and the meter, if necessary to confirm whether the alleged amounts billed are correct.

In your case, we would advise lodging a formal query with the municipality to investigate the meter, and should the municipality not adhere to the request to through your attorney inform the municipality of their responsibility to do so as stipulated in the above case.

Expropiation of land

The ANC national conference decided its National Executive Committee (NEC) would start the process towards a constitutional amendment of Section 25, or the Constitution’s property clause, to make possible land redistribution without compensation. There is a carefully phrased and potentially crucial rider: a sustainability test to ensure such redistribution does not negatively impact on the agriculture, food security or other sectors such as financial services, which hold around 70% of commercial farmers’ debt.

This will be a painfull loss to the unfortunate owners of land.

I have empathy with the majority decision, however I had the personal experience of the most painful loss in my life being the loss of the farm Campfornis in the district of Zoutpansberg without compensation.

George Kleynhans

076 741 6666