Dealing with inherited property is a tricky business. There's hardly been enough time to deal with the grief of losing a loved one and you're already thrown in the deep end. In most cases years of private decisions and paperwork, you weren't privy to await. Matters that would've been easily handled by the deceased become complicated and time-consuming. The most straightforward exit - but still not easy - is selling the property. In order to that, there are a series of steps and procedures that need to be followed.
Is there a Validly Executed Will?
Simply put a validly executed will has been signed by the deceased and authorised legal parties. The will could be held by banks, attorneys, and financial planners among several others. Once the will has been tracked down it can be used to determine the deceased's wishes and how the estate will be distributed. In addition, it will show who has been elected as the Executor.
Kaplan Blumberg Attorneys elaborates, "The next-of-kin will need to meet with the Executor as soon as possible, as the Estate will need to be reported to the Master of the High Court to enable the Executor to obtain the necessary authority to act, either by way of Letters of Executorship (if the value of the estate exceeds R250,000.00 at the date of death), or Letters of Authority (if the value is less than R250,000.00). From a practical perspective, this meeting usually takes place after the funeral."
The Beneficiary's Wishes & the Executor's Power
With the will in-hand and the Executor determined, the next step is the beneficiary's and whether they elected to sell any fixed assets from the estate. It is important to keep in mind that all assets will be frozen from the date of death.
"The Executor does not need to wait until the administration of the estate has been finalised. The Master of the High Court will require specific documents to be lodged at his offices before he will endorse the Power of Attorney to Pass Transfer, for example, the signed consent from the beneficiary in the prescribed format. The fixed property will be reflected as having been reduced to cash and the value reflected in the Liquidation and Distribution Account will be the purchase price," says Kaplan.
The Role of Real Estate Agents
At this point, real estate agents will get involved to facilitate any property sales. As Paul Stevens, Just Property CEO, explains "estate agents need to act with utmost professionalism to help Executors and beneficiaries achieve a fair market price for properties. This can be achieved by running a comprehensive market analysis and pulling data from multiple industry sources to deliver an accurate and balanced picture."
He continues, "Real estate agents have a responsibility to act in the best interests of their clients but knowing who their clients are, is not always immediately clear. They need to ensure that the people they are engaging with have the authority to sign on behalf of a deceased estate."
Complicated cases like these are best handled by those who have prior experience. As Stevens explains, "Managing property transactions at the best of times is tricky; in the context of deceased states it is especially difficult because of the many life events and the associated emotions, that are involved".