A person who dies without leaving a will (or a valid will) is said to have died intestate.
In these circumstances, the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act (No. 81 of 1987) apply. In essence, the Act provides a formula to be applied to the distribution of the estate, which considers whether there is a surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings etc.
To briefly summarise the more common situations:-
- If there is a spouse, but no descendants, the spouse inherits the entire estate;
- If there are descendants, but no spouse, the descendants inherit the entire estate;
- If there is a spouse and descendants, the spouse inherits R250,000 or a child’s share (whichever is the greater), and the descendants equally inherit the balance;
- If there is no spouse or descendants, but both parents are still alive, the parents inherit in equal shares.
Intestate estates often take longer to administer mainly because, as no executor has been nominated in a will, the Master may call upon interested persons to nominate an executor. That person is also likely to have to provide a bond of security (insurance to the value of the estate) before the Master will appoint him/her.