Opinion & Analysis

Why it is important to register an Estate

One cannot use the property as collateral or sell it if it belongs to the deceased as it is meant to be part of the deceased’s estate.

In other words, when one dies all the assets and liabilities of the deceased belong to the estate, which is why creditors are required to claim from the estate instead.

Many people do not realize the importance of registering a deceased estate to the extent that an amendment to the Administration of Estates Act of 2001 has criminalized the conduct for failure to register the estate.

Did you know?

Failure to register an estate within a stipulated period is an offense.

Section 5 3(a) of the Administration of Estates Act states 2021 that, Any person who, without just cause, fails to comply with subsection (1) to (3) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level one or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

Deceased estates should be registered because it only comes into existence when a person dies.

Estate planning is the process of putting plans in place to handle a person’s financial affairs in the event of their incapacity or passing. Assets are left to heirs as part of the preparation, and estate taxes are paid.

Who should register the Estate?

Following the decedent’s death, the estate must be reported within 14 days. Section 5 (1t states

Death notices to Master, Assistant Master or magistrate

(1)  Whenever any person dies leaving any property in possession, reversion or expectancy or leaving a will, the nearest relative or connection of the deceased who is at or near the place of death, or in default of any such near relative or connection, the person who at or immediately after the death has the chief charge of the house in or of the place on which the death occurs shall, within fourteen days thereafter, cause a notice of death to be framed in the form A in the Second Schedule, and shall cause that notice, signed by himself, to be delivered or transmitted —

(a)  if the death occurs in Harare or the district thereof, to the Master;

(b)  if the death occurs in Bulawayo or the district thereof, to the Assistant Master;

(c)   if the death occurs in any other district, to the magistrate for that district.

A death notice form and an inventory form outlining the decedent’s assets are both completed by the responsible party during registration.

A family member, friend, or other person with a connection to the estate, such as creditors, may take the necessary measures to register the decedent’s estate if there is no surviving spouse.

What do you need to register the estate?

  1. You need to have a death certificate.
  1. To register the estate, visit the Master’s office
  1. List all the deceased person’s possessions on the necessary paperwork.
  1.     You will be notified of the time and place of the meeting with the magistrate where an executor will be chosen.

Why is it important?

  1. When someone passes away, it’s crucial that their assets are gathered up for sale, redistribution, or payment of bills that had been incurred from the creditors; this process is known as winding up the estate, and it is carried out by an executor.
  1.     The registration of an estate is essential in order for beneficiaries to legally handle the deceased’s assets, such as immovable and mobile homes that will be registered in the deceased’s name.
  1. The surviving spouse is entitled to receive the household goods and things in such estate as well as a child’s share from the free residue of the estate as his or her sole property if the spouses were married outside of a community of property and the deceased spouse had children.
  1. To determine if the deceased had a will. If the deceased left a will, it will be honored, and the executor named in the will be selected in accordance with the deceased’s desires.
  1. To avoid criminal charges.

The registration of an estate is crucial to enabling beneficiaries to deal legally with the dead’s assets, such as immovable and mobile homes that will be registered in the name of the deceased.

Every person may at some point have assets or owe money, which might be referred to as one’s collective assets or obligations.

Regardless of the amount of the properties, assets, or obligations owned by the person—who may or may not be wealthy—all of these things together make up their estate.  It does not take much time and it is a very simple process.

One can contact lawyers for assistance and advice to ease the process.

Fungai Chimwamurombe is a registered legal practitioner and Senior Partner at Zenas Legal Practice and can be contacted for feedback at fungai@zenaslegalpractice.com and WhatsApp at 0772 997 889. Tapiwa Mujaji can be contacted on tapiwa@zenaslegalpractice.com

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