Advice and Opinion

Deceased estates can often be complicated to unravel

Deceased estates can often be complicated to unravel, and some can lead to legal problems cropping up, says Lanice Steward, managing director of Knight Frank Residential SA.

Problems don’t always arise because people are dishonest or have hidden anything, but often they are caused by ignorance or misinterpretation of the law, she said.

The holding vehicle for a property can either facilitate or complicate the wrapping up of an estate, which in turn affects the inheritance process and those with their heirs’ interests in mind should perhaps remember this, said Steward.

If a property is part of an estate and is bought in a close corporation, trust, or a company, the beneficiaries will have to work closely with the other members of those bodies as well as the executor of the will. In all of these bodies if a decision is to be made regarding the sale of the property, either one person is designated to sign documents via a resolution or all the members have to sign. This can take time and can cause delays in distributing assets, she said.

This is where the choice of executor is important and great care should be taken to find someone with all the necessary expertise as well as being fair, diplomatic and honest. The executor will be responsible for making sure that, in the case of a property being handled as part of the estate, this is dealt with as quickly as possible, particularly if a sale is necessary.

A good executor will liaise with property professionals who have all the necessary experience to establish the market-related price for the property and then sell the property as quickly as possible.

“Given how stressful a time this can be for a family, it will not do to have an executor who is opinionated or inexperienced. The executor should also be communicating with the family as to what is happening with the property so that they are not kept in the dark,” said Steward.

Another thing to check, she said, is what the executor’s fee is. They have been known to charge high fees as well as asking for as much as up to 50% of the estate agent’s commission on the property sold. This is often done without the knowledge of the heirs so it is best to negotiate this upfront as waiting until later can cause further delays and complications in that aspect of the estate apportionment.

“For everyone’s sake it is best to choose an executor who has no ulterior motive to become involved, who can remain level-headed, and who will work for the benefit of the heirs,” she said.


This information is published for general information purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to any particular situation. Property Wheel will accept no responsibility for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this publication.

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