Drafting and execution of wills should be declared an essential service says FISA

May 1st, 2020
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By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Fiduciary Institute of Southern Africa (FISA) has released a statement that it has made an urgent submission to the Department of Justice to consider having the drafting and execution of a will declared as an essential service under the lockdown regulations.

In the statement, FISA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Louis Janse van Vuren, said: ‘We are getting daily queries from our professional fiduciary members asking us how wills can be executed in a time of lockdown. By law, a will needs to be signed by the testator and two witnesses in the presence of the testator. The witnesses may not be anyone who stands to benefit from the will. Given the lockdown’s “social distancing” requirements, it is not possible to execute a will legally. This urgently needs to be declared an essential service and we are waiting for feedback from the authorities.’

Mr Janse van Vuren further added that the reduced staffing at the Master’s Offices around the country during the lockdown will greatly exacerbate the already existing backlog in some Master’s Offices regarding estate administration. He said the deceased person’s bank accounts are frozen after death, which can lead to spouses and family members who have lost a loved one to be severely cash-strapped. He pointed out that the executor of the deceased estate cannot access any funds in bank accounts until appointed by the Master of the High Court and issued with letters of executorship.

Mr Janse van Vuren said that the deceased estate advertisements in the Government Gazette and in most newspapers have also been stopped. He noted that as these advertisements and the time periods attached to them are legal requirements in the estate administration process, it will mean further delays in deceased estates already under administration. Mr Janse van Vuren pointed out that the impact of these delays on the economy is substantial as billions of Rands are tied up in estates under administration. He added that this situation can be dealt with without a substantial increase in physical contact between people, if more Master’s Office services are declared essential and smart solutions are implemented.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.