Chris Fick & Associates

The Wills Week that was held from 12-16 September this year, gave people from all backgrounds the chance to have a free consultation and to have a free will drawn up to organise their affairs. One specific instance is typical of so many complicated and desperate situations.

Mrs Chantal Jacobs (“Mrs Jacobs”) made an appointment through a neighbour who works at a government department, as she does not have an email address or a phone of her own. She arrived early for her appointment and was very keen to have a will drafted for her to make sure that the house she and her family live in will be a family house when she is gone. Her husband, with who she was married in community of property, passed away a year ago.

She has been to the Master of the High Court several times to report his estate but has failed to do so as the Master requires a “private lawyer” to assist her. This lawyer is required as the house which the joint estate of her late husband and herself owns, is valued by the City of Town at R278 000, more than the R250 000 limit which the Master allows for a Section 18(3) estate. A Section 18(3) estate requires a much simpler and quicker process than the regular process for the administration of deceased estates which have assets in excess of R250 000.

Mrs Jacobs is a pensioner, and her only income is her monthly pension of R1 800,00. Her 3 children live with her, and they have 7 kids among them. Not one of her children are employed and her son’s girlfriend also stays with him and their 3 kids in a “hokkie” in the backyard. Her son sometimes gets a loose job for a day or so but often he has no income in a month. As the monthly R1 800 is their only regular income, she has to provide for water and electricity with this amount and feed all 4 adults and 7 children with the balance. A task challenging beyond comprehension.

Her instructions for the will were quite clear and specific – she wants all 3 children and all grandchildren alive at the time of her death, to inherit a share in the house, to ensure that everyone has his or her own right to live in the house. She wants her house to remain a family house when she is gone.

The will is what she can afford at this stage, as it is free. But reporting of the estate and funding the advertisements to creditors and to invite objections to the estate’s liquidation and distribution account, and the Master’s fee, and the costs of transfer of her late husband’s share into her name (rates clearance application fee, payment of utility fees 60 days in advance, Deeds Office registration fee), let alone any fee or costs contribution to her “private lawyer”, is clearly light years beyond her and her family’s ability.

This typical township scenario is but of one many similar examples of the fact that most township residents cannot afford to be part of the state and legal system of reporting and administering deceased estates, and transfer of ownership of even a small Delft house.

Bottom line is that a free will is not the only thing that has to be free. And free not only for 1 week in the year either.

Chris Fick – 26 September 2022

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).