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Estate Administration: Inheritance & Wills In South Africa

South Africa has an inclusive justice system. This can be seen from its acknowledgment of rights for foreigners and people in customary marriages.

With the interplay between different laws and stipulations, estate planning and administration may seem a daunting task. Fortunately, writing a Will and the inheritance process do not have to fill you with dread.

Here is our guide to understanding estate administration, inheritance, and Wills in South Africa.

What Is Estate Administration

An estate is the total of money, assets, and property owned by an individual, especially at death.

Estate administration is the process of:

  • managing the estate,
  • paying any taxes or debts due on the estate, and
  • distributing the property and assets to the heirs and beneficiaries.

Estate administration ensures the deceased’s final wishes are carried out correctly. However, it’s important to note that it is a highly technical process.

Each individual’s estate and circumstances differ. Let’s draw a comparison.

A 65-year-old parent with five dependents, two businesses, numerous properties, foreign assets, and a large investment portfolio


A 33-year-old young professional with life cover, a spouse, no property, and a trust.

Both individuals have different family situations and are in different life stages. Yet, both would benefit from professional expertise to help them plan out their estates in the most tax-efficient and timely manner.

Avoid the pitfalls

The estate administration process is littered with pitfalls and red tape. The estate needs to be dealt with properly in order to give your family peace of mind after you’re gone.

The greatest tool to protect your final wishes is the Will. Drafting a valid Will simplifies the entire estate administration process by setting out your intentions in writing.

Drafting, Amending, And Revoking Wills

Drafting, Amending, And Revoking Wills

Most people in South Africa can draft their own Will. Drawing up your own valid Will requires you to have two people sign as witnesses (read more about the Will-making process here).

It is a simple process if you have a simple estate. However, taxes and know-how of the law are useful, especially if you have a large family, several assets, or policy payouts to manage.

At this point, it is always best to consult your financial advisor who will be able to help you with your financial needs. In this way, the process is smoother when it comes to dividing your assets.

As your life changes, so will your financial circumstances. This is why it’s important to regularly update your Will in the face of new life events like the birth of a child or purchase of a business.

Amending A Will

You can amend your current Will through a codicil. This is also known as an update to the Will.

All changes must comply with the requirements of a valid Will. Fortunately, the process does not require the two original witnesses to sign the Will again.

Revoking A Will

Asides from amending your Will, you can also completely revoke it. You can create a new one. The latest Will must state that the previous one has been revoked, or the old Will has been destroyed.

Revoking and/or destroying previous versions prevents future confusion and potential feuds between your beneficiaries and heirs. It helps all interested parties and loved ones stay on the same page.

Inheritance Law In South Africa

Inheritance Law In South Africa

Inheritance law applies to South Africans who own property in the country. The inheritance legislation generally respects the wishes of the deceased.

However, there is one exception to this law. If the spouse is left out of the Will, he or she can petition to claim a part of the estate to support themselves. This is called the Maintenance of Surviving Spouse Act.

Grant Of Probate

Grant Of Probate

A grant of probate is a document that affords a person the legal authority to act as executor. This executor can then administer the estate on behalf of the deceased.

After the subject’s passing, the family has two weeks to notify the Master of the High Court. This begins the process of settling the estate, including officially recognising the executor.

Within the Will, the deceased makes known the executor of their estate. This person will collect the deceased assets, pay any debts and estate taxes, and distribute the estate among beneficiaries.

Because of the sensitivity around death and finances, many people prefer to appoint estate administrators with both an excellent knowledge of the estate planning environment and a good relationship with the family.

Inheritance Tax In South Africa

South African inheritance tax (estate duty) applies to all estates that are valued below and above a certain amount. These estates may be subjected to capital gains and donations tax too.

  • For an estate under R30 million, the estate duty is 20% of the estate’s dutiable amount.
  • For an estate over R30 million, the estate duty is 25% of the estate’s dutiable amount.

Feel free to get in touch if you need help with navigating estate duty taxes and the small print of estate transfer.

Maysure Financial Services Estate Administration

Maysure Financial Services Estate Administration

Estate administration requires a professional and personal perspective. At Maysure Financial Services, our services are tailored to your circumstances.

Our offerings are inspired by your life and we do all we can to help you achieve financial freedom in this lifetime and for your family in the next.

We offer estate administration services that are fully committed to your needs. At all times, we provide you with the best support possible.

If you’re not sure where to turn, contact us today with your estate administration queries.

+27 11 839 2302

Maysure Financial Services is a registered financial services provider. FSP 15173

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640 400 Maysure Financial Services

Writing Your Will: Frequently Asked Questions

You’d be surprised at how many people believe that writing a will is not essential. They assume their hard-earned money will be left to intended beneficiaries automatically when they pass away. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Other people tend to procrastinate – a real roll of the dice since we don’t know when the end will come. We know first-hand that writing a will can be daunting. To help with the process, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about creating your last will and testament

Why Is It Important To Have A Will?

Man looking at a document

When you are alive you have absolute control of your estate. But, upon death, that can all change. A will helps to regulate what happens to your estate after your death. It can even contain provisions that guarantee care for your dependents after you are gone.

Merely leaving verbal instructions or simply having the intent to execute a will is not sufficient. Even an attempt to draft a will yourself could render the document invalid if all the prescribed formalities are not properly followed.

Leaving a professionally drafted will that applies effective estate planning strategies ensures your vision becomes a reality. A will helps ensure that your hard-earned work is not needlessly devalued.

When Should You Consider Drafting A Will?

Woman and child hugging in forest

Anyone with assets would benefit from drafting a will. Legally, any person over the age of 16 is allowed to make a will unless he/she is mentally incapable of doing so.

You can choose to write a will at any point in your life. However, there are certain life events that may make the decision more necessary. Events such as having children, starting a business, or inheriting a large sum of money make having a will more urgent.

What Should I Put In My Will?

Family laughing on the floor

While you can virtually do what you want with your estate, there are a few limitations of which to take note. For example, there can be no provisions in your will that are unlawful, against good morals, too vague, or impossible to perform.

Additionally, any minor children have a common law claim to maintenance. Certain legislation may also limit one’s freedom of testation. Such as in a case where pension funds or spousal maintenance is concerned.

When drafting a will, consider these crucial elements:


Most parents want to ensure that their children are properly cared for in the event of their deaths. Without a will, it could solely be left up to legislation to govern what happens to your children.

Having a will gives you and your loved ones needed relief. You are free to clearly indicate who you would prefer to raise your children.


One big factor to consider when creating a will is your assets. Assets can include anything from money and business to heirlooms and other valuable items.

With a will, you can outline which individual should inherit which asset. This part of the will must be as clear as possible. The asset must be clearly described so that it is not left up for interpretation.


The decision of how to split your home is obviously more complex than giving away a favourite heirloom. If you have one home but many beneficiaries, you’ll want to clearly outline your expectations for dividing the property.

Who Should Be My Executor?

Couple listening to an executor

The role of an executor is an important one. It should preferably be a person or institution that is familiar with deceased estate administration.

Professional establishments like ours at Maysure Financial Services give you the option to appoint a skilled executor together with a surviving spouse or a direct family member. As a result, your estate is left in the most capable hands.

It is the executor’s job to do the bulk of the work. By sharing this responsibility, your loved ones can feel included in the decision-making. It can also help to bring important family issues into consideration.

Certified Financial Planners vs Bank Executors

While the bank might seem like the obvious choice to handle your will and estate, it could create difficulties for your surviving spouse or heirs. Having a financial institution as your estate executor means your family has much less control.

Your loved ones are left at the mercy of an impersonal financial institution. And, the process of completing your estate could take years. In the meantime, your family members will have no access to estate funds, which could lead to unwanted debt and financial struggles.

Estates are often complicated and the “standard draft will” provided by the bank might not fit your individual needs. Although its affordability makes it attractive, it usually is not equipped to render the service best suited for your situation.

Plus, these wills are never truly inexpensive. Often banks will seek to be appointed executors in order to gain the executor’s fee that works out to 3.5% of the value of the estate assets.

A serious drawback to having a bank as an executor is this. If, after your death, the bank decides the estate has little value, the institution could refuse to take the appointment as executor.

Your heirs would be forced to approach the Master of the Court to appoint a new executor. This could lead to more delays and frustration for your loved ones.

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In contrast, a financial advisor assists you to map out the relevant costs as part of your estate planning. He or she can give you invaluable advice that will help you make the most out of your will and estate.

An advisor can also act as your executor. With your financial planner, you can negotiate your executor’s fees by discussing related factors, such as age, asset values, and the estate’s complexity. In that way, you can keep costs to a fair and reasonable minimum. And, you’ll ensure your will and estate administration are watertight.

Now Is The Best Time To Start Your Will

Woman discussing will with man

Wills are the best way to plan ahead. While there is no “perfect” time to establish one, it is a tool that can offer you and your family peace of mind. Will drafting is a delicate process that must be handled with the utmost care.

We suggest employing a professional who can assist you with this process.

Maysure can connect you with an experienced, qualified professional to handle your affairs. We offer a range of services to assist you in planning your estate at any stage in your life. It is our life’s work to ensure you feel like your last wishes are being respected.

Trust us with your last will and testament. Contact us here :

+27 11 839 2302

Maysure Financial Services is a registered financial services provider. FSP 15173