I will try my best to use layman’s language…
Under the law, there are two ways a person can die (so to speak):
either died testate (died with a will) or
died intestate (died without a will).
The estate of a testate will be distributed in accordance with the last will signed by testator/testatrix (the person who made a will). Ie he/she could direct for his estate to be inherited by whoever he/she prefers, eg to a charity, to a mistress, to a friend…
The estate of an intestate will be distributed in accordance with the law, eg, if the intestate died with wife and children, his estate will be distributed as such:
1/3 to the spouse,
2/3 to be shared equally between/amongst the children.
So, if you would like other people to benefit from your estate or if you desire for your children to have all your legacy instead of leaving 1/3 to your spouse, you have to make a will.
Secondly, many don’t understand that the law is as such that, when anyone died leaving behind any property or money in the bank, it will all be frozen… no one would be able to transfer the property or withdraw the money UNLESS he/she has obtained an from the court.
If a person died with a will, he/she would have named an Executor for his/her estate. An executor is the person appointed by the deceased to distribute his/her estate according to his will upon his death. In order for the executor to do that, he would still need to obtain a Grant of Probate from the court. Ie, a proper order from the court that he has all the power to administer the deceased’s estate. After that, he can obtain a distribution order so that he could sign all the transfer form on behalf of the deceased to transfer the deceased’s property according to the will.
If a person died without a will, there will be no executor named. Anyone who has an interest could come to the court to apply to be the administrator of the estate. In this case, the court will give a Grant of Letter of Administration (LA) to the rightful person. However, since the administrator is not a person appointed by the deceased, the law requires that before the LA could be obtained by the Administrator, two person has to become the administrator’s surety. These two sureties have to own landed property with the estimated value of roughly the same as the deceased’s estate! The sureties role is to guarantee to the court that if LA is given to the person applying for it, that person will administer the estate in accordance with law. After that only can the Administrator apply for Distribution Order to distribute the estate in accordance with the law.
Dying without a will makes things a lot more complicated because you will need to get some one willing to be the administrator and of top of that two sureties with title deed (which is not charged to bank) and the legal process is much more cumbersome!
If you just don’t like the idea of paying legal fees even after you’re dead, you can transfer all your properties and money to your chosen beneficiary before you die. But of course this solution is only sensible to old folks who does not look forward to live longer than their beneficiaries and would not be practicable to young couples with young children.