By THEMBAKAZI MVEMVE
When a person has died, it is a very difficult time for the family. We would like to try to ease this burden by helping families to understand the formalities that need to be attended to immediately after someone has died. This article will guide family members to be able to identify the various institutions that must be approached.
HOW CAN A PERSON OBTAIN A DEATH REPORT?
- When a person dies in South Africa, a medical practitioner (such as a doctor) will examine the deceased’s body.
- The medical practitioner will then confirm the person as being dead and further state the cause of death.
- S/he will then also issue a report, which sets out the cause of death. This, however, is not a death certificate, but rather a death report confirming that the person has died and the cause of the death. The death report is known as Form BI 1680.
- In rural areas where a medical practitioner is not available to complete a death report, a traditional leader or an authorised undertaker may complete the form.
- A Department of Home Affairs official may also complete the form. If an official from Home Affairs is not available then a member of the South African Police Service may be approached to complete the death report.
- The death of South African citizens and South African permanent residence permit holders that occurs outside South Africa must be reported to the nearest South African embassy or mission abroad. The country in which the death occurs must issue a death notice and a death certificate that must be submitted to the South African embassy or mission.
HOW CAN A PERSON OBTAIN A DEATH CERTIFICATE?
When a person has died, a family member or next of kin (such as a spouse, surviving child or parent) must report the death of a person to the Registrar of Births and Deaths at the Department of Home Affairs as soon as possible. If there is no office of Home Affairs in the area of death, the death must be reported at the nearest police station. In cases where death occurs outside of South Africa, the death must be reported at any South African embassy, mission, or consulate.
Obtaining a death Certificate from Home Affairs:
- If the death takes place in a rural area, the death report must be submitted at Home Affairs within a period of 14 days from the date of death.
- If the death takes place in the city, the death report must be submitted at Home Affairs within a period of 24 hours of being issued.
Documents to be taken to Home Affairs when applying for a death certificate:
- The death report.
- The deceased’s identity document.
- Your identity document.
- Marriage certificate of the deceased, where applicable.
Once the death is reported and registered at Home Affairs, the family or next of kin of the deceased will receive a death certificate and a burial order. These documents will allow for the burial of the deceased.
WHY IS OBTAINING A DEATH CERTIFICATE IMPORTANT?
The death certificate is important for the administration of the deceased estate. The Executor or Legal Representative of the deceased’s estate will need to make certified copies of the death certificate, as they will need to present these certified copies whenever a transaction is done on behalf of the deceased’s estate. When closing accounts or cancelling memberships or even claiming money, for example, the Legal Representative or Executor needs to make available a certified copy of the death certificate.
Notification of Death or Still Born form (Form BI-1663) must be completed when reporting a death. This form will be at all Home Affairs offices. The form must be completed by the person reporting the death and the medical practitioner or traditional healer involved in the declaration of death.
The Department of Home Affairs will issue a death certificate on receipt of the notification of death (Form BI-1663) and the death report (Form BI-1680).
WHEN MUST YOU REPORT A DECEASED ESTATE TO THE MASTER OF THE HIGH COURT?
An estate must be reported to the Master:
- When any person dies in South Africa, and leaves behind any property or a valid Will, or
- When a person dies outside of South Africa but has property or a valid Will in South Africa, then the estate of such person must be reported
WHERE DO YOU GO TO REPORT AN ESTATE OF THE DECEASED?
The estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court in whose jurisdiction the deceased was living at the time of his/her death.
Where the deceased was resident in the Republic, the estate must be reported to the Master in whose area of jurisdiction the deceased was resident at the time of his/her death.
Where the deceased was not resident in the Republic at the time of his/her death, the estate may be reported to any Master, provided it is reported to only one Master. An affidavit to the effect that the letters of executorship have not already been granted by any other Master in the Republic must accompany the reporting documents.
WHEN AND BY WHOM MUST ESTATES BE REPORTED?
- The estate of a deceased person must be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days of the date of death of the deceased.
- Any person who has control over the possessions of the deceased OR is in possession of the Will of the deceased may approach the Master of the High Court to report the estate.
HOW DO YOU REPORT AN ESTATE TO THE MASTER OF THE HIGH COURT?
You will submit to the Master of the High Court all the reporting documents (these will be discussed with you by the Master). The type of reporting documents that you will need to attach will differ depending on the value of the estate and the type of appointment required.
- Thembakazi Mvemve is a Law Clinic candidate attorney. In the 6 October edition of Grocott’s Mail, Mvemve will write about Funeral Planning. RULAC’s next article about death and the law, ‘Dying with or without a will’, will be published in Grocott’s Mail on 20 October.
RHODES UNIVERSITY LAW CLINIC HELPING YOU
Many people in Grahamstown suffer great loss or difficulty as a result of ignorance of the law. It is for this reason that the Rhodes University Law Clinic seeks to empower people with a better understanding of these laws and their legal rights to enable them to better manage their affairs.
The Rhodes University Law Clinic strives to improve access to justice through the provision of free legal services to underprivileged people in most areas of law. In addition to its New Street offices, Law Clinic staff are available to clients at the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi), Nceme Street, Joza, every Thursday from 9am-midday.
The Law Clinic also provides regular workshops on a wide range of topics in order to raise awareness of people’s rights. The workshops are conducted by staff of the Rhodes University Law Clinic at the Assumption Development Centre, Nceme Street, Joza.
For more details, please contact the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi) or the Rhodes Law Clinic: Rhodes University Law Clinic, 41 New Street, Grahamstown.
Telephone 046 603 7656