There are things they don't tell you when your parents die.
There are things you are not prepared for when one parent dies and the other one is still alive.
There are things you are bombarded with when both your parents die in quick succession.
This blog is not a who should have known what and by whom should it all be known, piece. This is a "hello everyone know what is coming your way and ensure you have your ducks in a row for your beneficiaries and heirs one day". Obviously tiny estate, tiny problems. Big estate, big problems. However the paperwork stays the same. When I say heirs, I mean the main ones responsible for supplying info and packing up. In the natural flow of things this would be the children of the deceased. If there are no children, make sure you have tasked someone with this. Obviously this often does not apply to all heirs.
My dad handled all the affairs, both financial and other, in their marriage. He paid the accounts, he managed what money was invested where, he made the financial decisions, he filed every document from the dog wash slip to the statement of his investments and he was the carrier of all information. This was both a blessing and a curse. You don't have to tell the heirs the value of every investment and policy, but the info they will have to be handing over, cannot be a secret.
As mom passed first this year, we would naturally have looked to dad to lead us in the monumental amount of documentation and information needed by the Attorney handling the Estate. He would have been there to help us pack up and share / distribute / take mom's beautiful things. Furniture, belongings and 80% of the house, would go on as normal and stay. However as dad was very ill when mom passed, we didn't have this guidance. When he was home for 2 months from hospital, before he returned there, dad was not always able to have discussions about serious matters with us, or he neglected to have them with both of us, which led to an unnecessary confusion now, of things that could have been prepared before. Dad then passed two months later and my sister and I were dumped head first into what we will call (cue Jaws music), The Estate. There should be no surprises for your children / heirs.
Now dad had / has a very savvy Financial Advisor that had kept dad, and my sister, per dad's instructions, up to date on all vital things. Unfortunately dad and mom's will was not drawn up with an Attorney (I have subsequently learnt why this is unusual), which would have meant that all documents viz Antenuptial Contracts, Title Deeds etc, would have been lodged with the will at the Attorney in a Fire Proof safe (also learnt this from an Attorney). Be warned about this. Their wills are completely legal etc etc but the paperwork is annoying for those left behind, when not at an Attorney.
A fantastic law firm was appointed then to deal with the Estate. This has created 293472039 emails between us as we bat our way through the paperwork.
- You have to supply to the Attorney, the name of every single bank account held at which bank. The name of every account held anywhere, including municipal accounts, levies, garden services and all other. You must be able to supply the account numbers. Very often you have to supply a copy of the last statement. They too will check for those you may have missed.
- The above means that either you must put the last statement in a file each month, or your children must have access to your email account to get to this information. A suggestion is that you place a list of all these institutions and your account numbers, in what I will refer to as The File.
- Attorneys will then get the amounts due on these accounts and once the Letter of Executorship is received, close them all. Be prepared for the closing of all accounts, especially bank accounts.
- It is advisable that you have your bank login details somewhere secure for heirs to access one day so that they can at least see what is what when you have passed.
- You have to supply the ORIGINAL marriage certificate and the ORIGINAL Antenuptial Contract. Don't try and buck the system with a photocopy.
- You also have to supply the ORIGINAL Title Deeds of paid up properties. If you cannot supply the original (dad didn't tell us where it is), you will pay R6 500 for each one you have to get from the Deeds office. Remember that this money is coming out of the Estate. It would have been helpful for these to have been in the Attorney's safe.
- Ensure that your originals of 5 and 6 are also in The File. If you lost them, get them before you pass away. Like get them now.
- If your family owned Timeshare, this is a whole song and dance. Let the Executor deal with it.
- Your families' cars - these can be sold via the Attorney (We Buy Cars seems to be the option of choice) and the money paid into the Estate. However if an arrangement was made between the deceased and an heir, prior to the death, it must be honoured. Such an amount as agreed will be deducted from the heir's inheritance. Should they not inherit enough cash to cover the car, that will be interesting. I am told that in a will, a beneficiary cannot be punished for inheriting.
- If you have expensive jewellery (or important such as wedding rings etc) and valuables - please decide before the time who will get what. Very often this can be decided in a nice way amongst you and your heirs upfront. This way it can be distributed to them at the time (or earlier) without fighting and everyone has something that was meaningful to them. However if you cannot play nicely and this has not been done, either beat each other, play ching chong chi or put the names in a hat. Tongue in cheek.
- If you own property, or more than one property, have a plan in place. Don't just let them roll into the Estate and leave the heirs to make decisions. One property inherited amongst several can be a shambles as the likelihood that you will have to sell it and split the money, is huge. Difficult if not all heirs want to sell. If you have properties equaling your amount of children, sort out who will get each one. Much easier. And more civil. Thus happiness. If you have a bond on it / them, take this into account when you get your affairs into order. Tell them. Don't surprise heirs. Don't forget things like for example DSTV decoders. If you inherit a house and want to continue with the service, you have to arrange for the decoder to be moved to your name and billed to you. These little things - WIFI, decoders, mobile accounts etc, can be overlooked.
- A have a friend whose divorced mom owned two weapons. She didn't licence them on expiry each time. Now she has passed away and this has become her daughter's problem. Licensed weapons can be sold and the money put into the Estate. Unlicensed weapons have to be handed in to the SAP to be destroyed. This fell to her to do with the paperwork supplied by the Attorney.
- Nothing is fast. Policies pay out quite quickly depending on who they are with. Property is a long process. Wrapping up of an Estate is a long process. In the interim, the heir apparent becomes liable for expenses on that property, so keep them to municipal accounts, levies, garden etc so that his can be submitted to The Estate. Should there be urgent maintenance e.g. a major electrical fault or leak or such, ditto. However if you decide to paint a wall or fix a broken thing like a cupboard, that is already for your own account. Ensure your heirs understand this concept. It is quite a surprise when the first month's bills roll in. Should you rent out the property, you need to notify the Executor. Such an income is then included in the Income and Expense account submitted to them.
- Importantly you need to remember that if you have a bond on your house, owe on your cars etc, the amounts after these being sold may be less than what you owe. This could deplete any other money in your Estate. Make provision for this.
- Have. A. Will.