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SPW Contributors

Sanlam Private Wealth

Comprehensive estate and tax planning is essential to preserve and transfer wealth from one generation to the next, especially if you have offshore assets. Sanlam Private Wealth’s Regional Head: Southern Cape, Lentsoane Lekalakala, and Head of Fiduciary and Tax, Stanley Broun, consider some of the important factors you need to take into account.

LENTSOANE: As more and more South Africans choose to invest offshore, and family members move across borders, multi-jurisdictional estate planning has become increasingly challenging. Why is proper and timeous estate planning so important, especially if you have both local and offshore investment structures?

STANLEY: Estate planning is a crucial part of ensuring the smooth transfer of your wealth to the next generation. It’s important to remember that each person’s estate plan is unique – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and it involves far more than just pushing around some numbers on an Excel spreadsheet.

It’s about so much more than just estate duty and tax. Estate duty is, of course, key, but it’s paramount to obtain expert advice to ensure that all the elements of proper estate planning are taken into consideration, to ensure that there are no nasty surprises for your beneficiaries when your estate gets wound up.

It should also be noted that each country generally has its own distinct succession and inheritance tax laws. In addition, there may be a mismatch of factors used to determine tax liabilities in different jurisdictions – such as domicile (permanent home), tax residence, habitual residence and nationality. It’s a highly complex area of expertise, and there are so many factors to be taken into account, including your marital regime and whether your children have emigrated or intend to do so.

LENTSOANE: What are the main elements you look at when working with a client on an estate plan?

STANLEY: We normally ask our clients to share more than just the elements that will form part of their estate duty calculations – we’d like to know all the details of your assets and liabilities, both local and offshore, but also information about life policies, pension and provident funds, business interests, company shares and loan accounts, where the beneficiaries are resident, and much more.

The full picture enables us to draw up a proper estate plan and determine if there are ways to better structure your financial affairs – both in South Africa and offshore – to reduce your overall tax burden.

LENTSOANE: How can estate planning help you to structure your assets more efficiently?

STANLEY: Taking into account all the elements of your financial assets and liabilities, proper estate planning can provide an excellent opportunity to restructure your wealth. For example, what planning opportunities are there to better manage inheritance tax issues in the UK, or US estate taxes? Would an offshore trust or a dry trust be a good option to house your offshore assets?

The most important question to ask when thinking about estate planning is, ‘What are my objectives, and what do I want to achieve?’ Just because one product or vehicle may prevent someone from having to pay estate duty and taxes, it doesn’t mean it will be suitable for your particular purposes. Your estate plan, whether it’s for your local or your offshore assets or both, must be in line with your overall objectives.

LENTSOANE: Let’s talk about wills. If you have both local and offshore assets, how important is it to have an offshore will as well as a South African will?

STANLEY: Drafting wills from an international perspective can be highly complex – expert advice should be sought in determining whether one or multiple wills are required. For some jurisdictions a separate will may be a sensible solution, but it doesn’t always solve all the issues, especially if it hasn’t been drafted correctly. The drafter needs to ensure, for example, that a will dealing with assets in one jurisdiction doesn’t inadvertently revoke another will dealing with assets in another jurisdiction.

This and other important matters can be addressed only when all the facts are known and can be thoroughly examined. A comprehensive estate plan can then be compiled along with carefully drafted wills, taking into account all relevant jurisdictions and the various elements applicable to each.

LENTSOANE: Any final comments on the importance of estate planning?

STANLEY: You’ve worked extremely hard to accumulate your wealth, and you want to be able to leave a lasting legacy for those who come after you. You want to make sure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes when you pass on. It’s one thing to grow and preserve your assets while you are still around, but it’s equally important to ensure that you don’t potentially miss your objective by not taking into account all the elements that are crucial in drawing up a proper estate plan, or by making small, easily avoidable mistakes that can have a major impact in the long run.

At Sanlam Private Wealth, we have all the necessary skills and expertise to assist you in drawing up your global estate plan. If you’d like further information, please contact Stanley Broun on +27 (0)11 778 6648 or

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