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Newsletter 75 (Jul 2023)
Newsletter 75 (Jul 2023)
Dear Colleague
July recently provided some part of South Africa with their first snowfall experience after more than a decade! This rare event was the reason for a lot of excitement and caused quite a stir among citizens from near and far. The transformation of certain parts of the country into a winter wonderland was mesmerising. As could be expected, it gave rise to freezing temperatures, which indicated that winter is in full swing.
National Women’s Day is a public holiday and will be celebrated on Wednesday, 9 August 2023.
This day commemorates the march of approximately 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 to protest against the carrying of pass books. This day also recognizes  women for their achievements irrespective of their differences,  whether it be their personal beliefs, ethnicity, language, cultural, or economic or political convictions.
Enjoy Women’s Day!
A cash shortfall is one of the most frequent occurrences that we encounter when administering an estate. If there is no liquidity in an estate, it means that there is not enough money to settle debts and/or to pay estate costs. This leads to long delays in finalising such an estate as we cannot move forward with winding up the estate until there is enough cash to pay the creditors and estate expenses.
Proper estate planning should include the options available to clients to ensure that there is enough cash in an estate to prevent non-cash assets from being sold. Your clients must know that, should they have assets, the executor can either sell these assets to meet the financial obligations, or the heirs will have to pay the shortfall to preserve the assets, such as property.
The most effective way to avoid a cash shortfall is for your clients to take out life and/or bond insurance to ensure that there is sufficient cash available to cover estate expenses.
We will discuss this topic at length in the next edition of The Legatus Times.
Read more about this in the next edition
This is an interesting court case which occurred in March 2023 between the deceased estate of Christopher Kingsley versus Eskom for owing the estate approximately R116 000 in overpaid electricity accounts.
The court was told that the late Mr Kingsley held two electricity accounts with Eskom, both with credit balances of R10 400 and R106 000, respectively. Despite numerous demands for payment to the estate, Eskom failed to do so. According to the executor, Eskom is thus “deemed unable to pay its debts”.
As the executor was unable to retrieve the funds from Eskom, they instructed an attorney in July 2020 to recover the outstanding money from Eskom on behalf of Mr Kingsley’s estate. In the meantime, a new account had been opened in the name of the new owner of Mr Kingsley’s property. Eskom acknowledged the request for a refund and undertook to resolve the issue within six to eight weeks, having logged a credit refund status with its relevant department.
The attorney had to send another letter of demand in February 2021 as Eskom had still not refunded the estate. Eskom then requested proof of bank account in the form of a bank-stamped letter to confirm the banking details of the estate, and again said that the matter would be resolved soon.
This was another unfulfilled promise, which led to the subsequent threatened legal action against the entity. Eskom did not respond to the threat of legal action and again failed to pay the money back into the estate. As a result, the executor of the estate turned to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, to ask for a provisional winding up order of Eskom in terms of the Companies Act.
Judge Maritz rejected the technical points in law that Eskom put forward. Eskom’s liability to the estate was proven by two tax invoices issued by Eskom in which it was reflected that it owed the estate approximately R116 000.
Even though Eskom did not deny that the estate asked for a refund for the overpaid accounts, they put forward the following arguments:
  • That they never authorised a refund.
  • That the applicant had failed to prove that it was the deceased himself who made the payments to Eskom, resulting in the credit balances.
  • That no payment was due as it had not yet concluded its internal verification processes.
These excuses were dismissed by Judge Maritz. He said that Eskom missed the point because, when the tax invoices were issued with a credit balance, the power utility had accepted that there were overpayments and that it was indebted to the deceased. “On Eskom’s own version, it undertook to resolve the refund within six to eight weeks. It failed to do so,” said Judge Maritz.
Judge Maritz further added that Eskom had failed to place any evidence before the court that it was able to pay its debts: “This issue was simply not addressed at all. This is regrettable, especially from a state-owned company”.
The electricity giant told the court in its argument: “It is a multibillion-rand enterprise, which owns power stations in various parts of the country, which are valued at billions of rand”. It further said that merely refusing to pay an alleged debt of R116 000 was hardly an indication that Eskom was unable to pay its debts.
To this argument, Judge Maritz answered that there were “damning reports in the public sphere regarding Eskom’s inability to pay its debts”.
The final verdict by Judge Maritz was that, even though there were shortcomings in Eskom’s case, a winding-up order at that stage would not only affect the entity and its employees, but also the public at large. He said that Eskom should be given a further opportunity to pay the debt by the following month. The applicant then had the option to return to the court, should the entity not pay the refund.
At the time of writing this newsletter, it was still unclear if Eskom had refunded the estate, or if the case would have to be resumed. What is clear though is that this issue is not only costing the estate a great deal of money but is also causing a delay in its finalisation.
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Imagine having to wait 66 years before being allowed to take a peek inside a mystery box? This would require quite a lot of discipline and strict self-control. The British Museum passed this test with flying colours!
Francis Douce, an antiquarian, left a mystery box to the British Museum when he died on 30 March 1834. His Will specified that the box could only be opened on 1 January 1900. Douce had an exceptional collection of old books, manuscripts, coins and artefacts, which he amassed over his lifetime. The majority of his collection was bequeathed to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. hese items became one of the library’s prize collections.
The mystery box became one of the British Museum’s treasures as curators speculated over the contents thereof. They respected Douce’s wishes, despite their impatience, and the box remained unopened. The bequest was deemed especially unusual because Douce had worked at the museum for a very short period before resigning, listing multiple reasons and grievances why he had to leave.
When the time came to open the box, expectations were very high. However, the disappointment was much higher as the box only contained some old notebooks and some pieces of scrap paper. Some type of revenge maybe, seen in the light of the list of reasons that Douce provided for having to leave after such a short period of employment? His reasons for this strange bequest remain a mystery to this day.
Until next time!
“The Legatus Times” Team

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