Interstate Succession in South Africa

If you die Intestate (IE with no valid will), the SA government uses a default will for you.


If you were to die today without leaving a Will, under South African law your Estate is distributed according to the laws of intestate succession, as set out in the Intestate Succession Act of 1987. This means that if you do not draw up a Will, on your death your assets may be distributed in a way that is different from what you would have chosen had you taken the opportunity to do so. In terms of the Act, your closest relatives will inherit from you in strict, pre-determined order and proportions.

In effect, if you don’t have your own Will the State has made a one-size-fits-all option to be applied for all its citizens.


So how would the SA Government allocate your Intestate Estate?


In general terms, this is how your Estate would be divided as a result of dying intestate:

Who is the Deceased survived by?

Who gets what from the Deceased Estate?

Only surviving spouse

Total Estate goes to the spouse

Only descendants

Total Estate is divided between descendants

Spouse and descendants

The spouse gets a child’s share (R125 000) and the balance is divided equally between the descendants

Both parents

Total Estate is divided equally between both parents

One parent only

Total Estate goes to the parent

One parent & descendants

Half the Estate goes to the parent; balance is divided equally amongst descendants

No spouse; No descendants; No parents; but descendants through mother & descendants through father

Estate divided into two parts: half to descendants through mother; half to descendants through father

No spouse; No descendants; No parents; No descendants through mother or father

Estate goes equally to Blood Relatives that are nearest in degree of relationship


In addition, an Intestate Estate still needs an Executor

As this is something you would have done in your will – appoint your chosen executor – when you die without a will it is again left to the Government to appoint an Executor to wind up your Estate. This could cause additional hardship for your family as he/she would be an outsider that does not know them or your personal circumstances.


Is it complicated or expensive to get a Will?

Getting professional advice and having your will draw up by an attorney is inexpensive and highly recommended. If your circumstances are simple and straightforward, you can even use our Will template to draw up a legal will yourself. If however your situation is not absolutely straightforward, we strongly encourage that you take professional legal advice.

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