By Sipesihle Mguga
- Maintenance claims against the estate
Spouses and children of the deceased can lodge maintenance claims against a deceased estate. If you are married and your spouse dies, you are entitled to lodge a claim against your deceased spouse’s estate for maintenance. This also applies to a customary law wife. This is defined as “reasonable maintenance needs until death or remarriage insofar as he/she is not able to provide for his/her own means and earnings”.
Essentially, if you are financially unable to provide for your own basic needs, you can claim from the estate of your spouse. This maintenance will be paid to you up until such time as you die or remarry.
Children of the deceased, whether born of the marriage or out of wedlock, and even adopted children can lodge a claim for maintenance against the estate of their deceased parent. It is important to note that any monetary inheritance for a minor child will, unless directed otherwise, be paid into the Guardian’s Fund of the Master of the High Court. A claim for maintenance for a child is lodged by giving notice in writing to the Master and the executor of the estate of the child’s need for maintenance.
- The Guardian’s Fund
The Guardian’s fund is a fund created by the government to hold and administer the monies paid to the Master of the High Court on behalf of persons such as minors, missing or absent persons and people who are unable to manage their own affairs.
Maintenance can be claimed by the guardian/executor/curator (the person looking after the beneficiary) by way of an application on form J341 supported by quotations and accounts. Payments can be made directly to the service provider, like schools, universities and bookshops.
A minor can claim the money, as well as the accrued interest, on reaching the age of majority. However, a testator can stipulate another age when a beneficiary is entitled to the invested capital.
Payment takes place by means of a crossed cheque to the payee personally, or by a deposit in the payee’s banking account.
CAUTION: Often children are unaware that money has been paid into the Guardian’s Fund for them. Children should be aware of people who might want to charge them for telling them that they have funds held in the Guardian’s Fund. You are not obliged to pay anyone for what is lawfully yours. Should you know of people doing this, they must be reported to the relevant authorities immediately, as this practice is unlawful.
DID YOU KNOW? On the website of the Master of the High Court there is a list of the names of beneficiaries from all over South Africa whose money is being held in the Guardian’s Fund and which has not been claimed. So, if you suspect you may have inherited money from someone’s estate visit the following website, http://www.justice.gov.za/master/guardian.html, to see if your name appears on the list of unclaimed beneficiaries.