The Consequences of Dying…

In life, two certainties exist: death and taxes. While we're aware of the repercussions of tax evasion, do similar consequences apply in death?

March 8, 2024

Two things in life are unavoidable: death and taxes.

Many of us are familiar with the saying, and most know the consequences of not paying one’s taxes, but are there consequences in death?

Apart from the obvious emotional distress and void our loved ones are left with when we pass on, the pain of winding up our affairs can add additional stress and turmoil.  

There are also many horror stories of family disputes because of the financial issues and other legalities involved in the winding-up of the deceased’s estate affairs.  

The matter can further be complicated if we do not update our wills, in order to reflect the various changes that might have occurred in our lives, such as:

• Acquiring or disposing of immovable property

• Death of a beneficiary

• Divorce

1. Acquiring or disposing of immovable property

This part of life can be exciting and or devastating.

When acquiring our first or forever home, the excitement of it all may be all-consuming and we may neglect to update our will to reflect this new asset.  

And perhaps later in our lives, when we are possibly down-scaling, it can also be an energy-zapping experience.  Moving homes after a lifetime can be a stressful event and one can often forget to amend one’s will to remove the property from same..  

The potential pitfalls can be mitigated by approaching your attorney to draw up your new will or do an addition to your will in the form of a codicil.  

Failing to note any changes in respect of your property/ies leaves room for confusion and may result in horrible family and/or financial disputes.

2. Death of a beneficiary

It is not only our death that we must plan for.  Sometimes we painfully lose our loved ones, before the end of our own journey.

In these moments, albeit consumed by grief, if we had not made provision for alternative beneficiaries or stated inheritance is per stirpes (descendants of the named beneficiary) in our will, it is advisable to then revise the contents of our wills.

In cases where we have not updated same and a beneficiary does pass on before us, the law, in certain instances, can adopt intestate precedents to resolve the ambiguity.

If it is not one’s wish for legacies and benefits to be bequeathed per stirpes, then it is best to name alternative beneficiaries.

3. Divorce

This is increasingly becoming a common part of life, and also requires our proactive thinking in terms of updating a will.

During proceedings or whilst drawing up settlement agreements, it is advisable to consider asking your attorney to update or draft a new Will according to your new or applicable circumstances.

The Law has a provision that should a recently divorced person pass on within 3 months of the divorce, then their ex-spouse is viewed as having predeceased them and the estate is distributed without acknowledging the ex-spouse. However, if the will is not updated after the “grace” period, the law views the Will as if it was intended to have their ex-spouse viewed as a current spouse.

If the divorce is not amicable, updating one’s Will and policies should be of utmost importance.  

An updated will is a simple solution to the above potential misfortunes in life.  Granted, it won’t take away the pain, but it will guide the family and related parties in winding up your estate, lessen disputes, and all can work together in seeing through your last wishes.

Written by: Deonalin Pongolani
Moderated and approved by: Clive Smith

Client Testimonials
I would like to say a big thank you to the entire team at Snymans Inc for providing such exceptional service with the sale of my property.  I would most definitely recommend your company to others.
- Lucy Snyman
Client Testimonials
Thank you so much to Chloe for all the hard work done and the professional service you give my clients.
- Michele le Roux
Client Testimonials
Thank you team Snymans, you guys were excellent. Many thanks to Stacey and the whole team involved. Most appreciated!
- Loretta & Brian
Client Testimonials
We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation of the welcoming, excellent and professional service we have received from your whole team. We definitely know where to turn for our future business and transfers.
- Lyzette & Dr Nel