Practical steps to take for winding up an estate

The winding-up of a loved one’s estate can often be frustrating and time-consuming. Certain things, such as the backlog at the Master’s Office and delays at SARS, are simply out of our control. There are, however, some practical steps that individuals can take to ensure that when the time comes, the winding up of their estate runs as smoothly as possible.

  1. Having your original vehicle registration papers
    If you do not have your original registration papers, your executor needs to apply for the original documents at the licencing department where the papers were originally issued. We were recently winding- up an estate, and the heirs wanted to sell the deceased’s car. The original registration papers could not be found, so the executor had to fly to Durban from Cape Town to go and apply for a copy of the original documents, as only an executor can apply and cannot be done by anyone else.
  2. Make sure SARS has your updated ID number
    Because of some legal changes, some people’s identity numbers were amended during the 1990s. In our experience, we have often found that the deceased had not updated SARS with their new ID number. This, unfortunately, cannot be done online, and a person needs to go to their local SARS branch to do this. However, not updating your ID number with SARS causes endless delays when winding- up estates.
  3. Having your tax affairs up to date
    All taxes need to be up to date for an estate to be finalised. A client at Chartered Tax’s father passed away in 2016. When collecting information required for compiling the Liquidation and Distribution Account, she discovered that her father had not submitted tax returns to SARS since February 2001 and what followed was countless hours spent digging through boxes, standing in queues at banks, and endless administration to try and submit his tax returns up until his date of death.
  4. Having the original title deed of your house should you not have a bond
    Property cannot be sold or transferred without its title deed. If the property is not yet paid off, the bank will be in possession of these papers. You must have the original title deed in your possession if you do not have a bond. If you don’t have the title deed, you can apply to the bank to release the original title deed to you (if you paid up your bond, there is a bond cancellation fee and a process to note this at the Deeds Registry) or to assist you to obtain a duplicate original if you have misplaced it.
  5. If you have a firearm, is your licence up to date?
    We often find that people bequeath firearms, particularly old family rifles or shotguns, passed down for generations. If the deceased does not have a valid firearm licence for each individual firearm, nothing can be done, and the weapon cannot be sold or transferred and must be handed to the police and destroyed. It’s best to discuss your wishes for your firearm with your beneficiaries and your executor and to keep the license up to date so that your beneficiaries can receive it from your estate without stress.
  6. Having your shares materialised for them to be sold or transferred
    Older share certificates were issued in paper before the “digital age.” Dematerialising shares is the process of exchanging the paper-original share certificate for an electronic one. Shares cannot be sold or transferred if they have not yet been dematerialised. Dematerialising shares takes several weeks (and sometimes months) and involves returning the original share certificate to the share provider to enable them to issue the shares digitally. Shares in an estate that need to be dematerialised can cause significant delays as the providers can sometimes be unresponsive or slow to process dematerialisation applications. If you still own an original share certificate for listed shares, it’s best to speak to the JSE Investor Services to hear how you can start the process to dematerialise your shares so that your executor does not have to follow this process.

If you would like to know more about the winding up of estates, or how to prepare your estate to make the winding-up process easier for your family, please reach out to one of the Chartered Legacy & Trust team members.

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