What happens to your assets if you die without a will and any living relatives?
A client advised that a friend died without leaving a will. His assets include a townhouse, two cars and a few bits of furniture. Who inherits?
The common law provides that, in this case, the State acquires the whole estate as bona vacantia. The matter is now regulated by sections 35(13) and 92 of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. The procedure is that where the intestate heirs cannot be identified or if there are no intestate heirs, the executor must sell all the assets in the estate (in this case, the townhouse, etc.) and, after payment of the estate’s debts, pays the residue into the Guardian’s Fund. If nobody can prove that they have a claim to the estate as an intestate heir of the deceased, then after 30 years have elapsed after payment of the funds into the Guardian’s Fund, the money accrues to the State.
You will find a really useful overview on the distribution of an estate of a person dying with or without a will, here: http://www.justice.gov.za/juscol/news/201106_intestate-and-testate-succession.pdf