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Newletter 60 (Mar 2022)
Newletter 60 (Mar 2022)
Dear Colleague
“For to be free, is not merely to cast of one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Nelson Mandela
South Africans will be celebrating Freedom month in April. Not only will we commemorate the first democratic election held in 1994, but we will also celebrate the inherent freedoms that we have. With people still in slavery in some parts of the world, this celebration emphasises that each freedom should be cherished and appreciated because we live in a world where things can change overnight.
Enjoy theFreedom Day celebrations on 27 April!
How many copies of an original Will should be signed?
If there is no original signed Will, there is no Will. It has always been good practice to sign an original Will in threefold: One to be kept by the client, one for safekeeping by Legatus Trust and one for yourself to file in your client’s file.
While it is not environmentally friendly to use too much paper, this is one of those instances where a paper trail is still by far the best option.
Read more about this in the next edition
The question around the time it will take to wind up an estate is on the lips of numerous people, especially almost every beneficiary of an estate. This is quite understandable because everyone would like to wind up an estate to carry on with a life that has changed forever after losing a loved one. Apart from specific timelines regulated by the law, this is one of those questions that do not have a right or wrong answer.
Be assured that, even under the current, sometimes difficult, circumstances, Legatus Trust personnel will always do their utmost to provide the best service possible and will make it a priority to wind up all estates as soon as possible. The speed of service delivery is still being hampered after the ransomware attack on South Africa’s Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ & CD) systems which took place on 06 September 2021. Even though their systems have been restored, it has created a huge backlog which impacts Legatus Trust’s services as well as the services of some of our other service providers directly. Ultimately we share the same goal as our clients and the next of kin of the deceased, and that is to administer all estates as speedily as possible.
Roughly, a deceased estate could take anything from five months (which is practically impossible) up to a couple of years to be wound up. The average time is between nine months to a year for uncomplicated estates. Each estate is unique in its composition and it mainly depends on the size and structure of the deceased’s assets and liabilities. The complexity of an estate will determine the timeframe for this service.
When it comes to smaller estates of R250 000 or less, covered under Section 18(3) of the Administration of Estates Act (Act 66 of 1965), it is a fairly simple process because a Letters of Executorship is not required. Normally, a family member is authorised by the Master of the High Court to collect debts, pay the creditors and distribute the remaining assets of the deceased, if any, to the heirs. The concept of a fairly simple process is perhaps used lightly, because even smaller estates can have their own share of complications. Remember that Legatus Trust can also assist in administering estates that fall under Section 18(3).
In estates where the value exceeds R250 000, an executor must be appointed to administer the matters of the estate which, in our case, would be Legatus Trust (Pty) Ltd. The following steps will then follow:
  • Legatus Trust must obtain a Letters of Executorship which must be issued to Legatus Trust by the Master of the High Court. Only then can the following actions that form part of the administration process, take place:
  • Closing of the deceased’s bank accounts;
  • Advertising for debtors and creditors;
  • Paying creditors;
  • Drafting a liquidation and distribution account (L&D account); and
  • Distributing the assets of the deceased in accordance with the provisions of the Will and as set out in the L&D account.
The executor must deal with different service providers while administering the estate. The levels of service delivery will influence the time it takes to wind up an estate. Service providers include governmental departments (e.g. the Master of the High Court and the South African Revenue Services (SARS)), financial institutions, the deceased’s employer, etc.
The Administration of Estates Act prescribes certain processes which carry compulsory time periods, mainly:
  • The advertisement period for debtors and creditors, which must appear on the same day in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper in the area where the deceased lived. The advertisement must state that the debtors and creditors have 30 days in which to lodge any claims against the estate. The executor cannot finalize the L&D account of the estate before this time period expires; and
  • The inspection period during which the estate account must be available for inspection at the relevant Master’s office. The Master must examine and approve the L&D account and, only when he is satisfied, can it be advertised in the local newspaper as available for all interested parties for a period of 21 days.
All of this can only be done by the executor once appointed in the position of executor, which can take time.
Owing to complex asset structures or tax issues, it often happens that several L&D accounts must be compiled numerous times before the Master is satisfied and the estate can be finalised.
In case of an estate with no complications and where the L&D account gets approved after the first submission, the following is a rough estimate of the timespans of the steps to wind up an estate, with the minimum to maximum number of days needed for each step:
  • From death to reporting the death to the Master of the High Court and handing in the Will: 2 – 21 days
  • Waiting for the Master to issue a Letters of Executorship to the executor: 2 – 90 days
  • Placing the advertisement for debtors and creditors: 7 – 14 days
  • Advertisement time-period: 30 - 44 days
  • Drafting the L&D account and lodging it with the Master: 7 – 60 days
  • Waiting for approval from the Master: 14 – 90 days.
  • Preparing to advertise the L&D account: 7 – 14 days
  • Advertisement time period: 21 - 28 days
  • Distributing the assets: 30 - 180 days.
  • Final requirements and final cash pay-out to heirs: 30 - 180 days
  • TOTAL NUMBER OF DAYS: 150 - 721 days.
Keep in mind that there are numerous actions that take place when administering an estate in between all of the steps set out above. Service delivery plays a huge part in the time period and, in practice, most estates are not straight forward at all.
The truth of the matter is that it is nearly impossible to provide a guarantee on the timespan of winding up an estate. In addition, the country is still not totally free from lockdown regulations and because of the consequences of the ransomware attack on the systems of the DOJ & CD in September 2021, normal procedures and response times are still impacted negatively.
It is quite common for people to suffer from phobias, one of them being buried alive. This is quite an old anecdote dating back to 1758, but during that era, quite a lot of people were mistakenly declared dead and buried alive. This almost happened to the wealthy Hannah Beswick’s brother John as well, which could explain this terrible fear of hers. Most likely, even today, a lot of people could probably relate to Hannah’s fear.
Hannah was terrified of being buried alive. Therefore, she instructed in her Will that Dr Charles White must ensure that she was not. Dr White did not bury Hannah but rather embalmed her body. He mummified and wrapped her in tar-infused bandages, leaving her face uncovered and peeping out from a grandfather clock. Not a very appealing picture to imagine! According to Hannah’s wishes, Dr White formally examined her once a year to confirm that she was still dead. Dr White ultimately also inherited her fortune.
When Dr White passed away, he left the mummy to a doctor friend in his Will. The mummy was later bequeathed to a museum. In 1868, Hannah was finally given a proper burial in Manchester when it was agreed beyond any doubt that 110 years after she died, that she was certainly dead.
Until next time!
“The Legatus Times” Team

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