Real Talk

Adapt Estate Administration – Taking control and easing the burden

May 31, 2023 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Louw-Mari Nell speaks openly about losing her youngest sister, Liezl, to lung cancer and how this has driven her to help grieving families by starting Adapt Estate Administration without prolonging or deepening their sense of loss.

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Louw-Mari Nell (45) lives in Randburg, Gauteng.

When Liezl was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in November 2019, all three sisters, Louw-Mari, Bernadette and Liezl, were living together. Liezl’s two older sisters were beside her every step of the way until her passing in April 2022. 

Notwithstanding that Louw-Mari is a practising attorney she isn’t the executrix in Liezl’s estate, but knew what a struggle it is for grieving families and set out to ease this unnecessary burden for mourning families. She tells us more.

The birth of Adapt Estate Administration 

My business partner, Cari du Toit, and I are both practising attorneys and specialise, amongst other things, in the winding up of deceased estates. We understand the complexities of winding up deceased estates, have first-hand experience of the frustrations involved in the process and have over the years witnessed various estates being wound up poorly and incorrectly. 

So, Adapt Estate Administration has been in the making for a number of years, and although we’ve always strived to attend to the winding up process as efficiently as possible it wasn’t until Cari and I, in very quick succession of one another, both suffered the loss of a loved one very dear to us, that we made it our mission to not only attend to the winding up process swiftly and with compassion but also without prolonging or deepening our clients’ sense of loss.

Most common obstacles of estate administration

The biggest obstacle in the winding up of any estate is having the letters of executorship issued by the offices of the Master of the High Court. The Master of the High Court is tasked with the supervising of the winding up process by ensuring that the financial affairs of the deceased are wound up in an orderly fashion and that the financial interests of the heirs are protected. In the absence of a letter of executorship being issued, the executor has no authority and is unable to perform any of its duties, functions and/or obligations as provided for in the Administration of Estates Act.

However, the biggest obstacle in Liezl’s estate, true to her nature to stand out from the crowd, was to obtain her death certificate, which is an entire story on its own.

During the winding up process, minor obstacles and delays are to be expected which are primarily attributable to external factors, such as extended power outages resulting in backlogs.

Wrapping up Liezl’s estate

Liezl had the clarity of mind and foresight of knowing that it would be too close to home for me (her sister) to attend to the winding up of her estate and she, out of her own volition, nominated Cari as the executrix in her estate.

During her last days at home, Liezl summoned friends and family to her bedside daily, to personally hand over and part with some of her more personal items and smaller valuables. These gatherings were heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and epitomised the inevitable to all of us but also comforted, consoled, re-assured and soothed us in believing that all will be okay when we witnessed the grace and serenity in which Liezl embraced her fate. To Liezl these gatherings empowered her, provided her with a sense of control, comforted her in knowing that her affairs were looked after and in order and that the winding up of her estate would not be a burden on anyone.

Abiding to Liezl’s wishes

Since Liezl’s diagnosis until her passing, we had numerous frank and honest discussions regarding her last wishes, their meaning, their consequences and their execution to the last letter. Liezl was resolute and decisive in what she wanted, and I always got the impression that being able to plan and sort out her affairs put her mind at ease that her loved ones were sufficiently provided for.

As estate administrators, we were tasked with ensuring that her voice be heard even after she was gone by recording and formalising her last wishes. Liezl’s last will and testament was regularly reviewed to ensure that its contents were still relevant to her estate and her wishes.

When Liezl got to know that she no longer qualified as a viable organ donor since being diagnosed with cancer she aspired to donate her body to medical science for research and teaching purposes in the hope that even after her death she still could make a difference to the lives of others. The elder members of the family, however, didn’t share Liezl’s enthusiasm on this topic and she was met with severe opposition in this regard. What Liezl wanted was possible but required the necessary arrangements to be put in place during her lifetime to ensure that her last wish was fulfilled.

Siblings sharing the load

The three of us, Bernadette, Liezl and myself, have always been very close but since Liezl’s passing Bernadette and I only had one another. We walked this journey with Liezl from the get-go and have supported her and one another throughout.

On the days either one of us felt weighed down and that the burden was too heavy to carry further, the other one of us would take charge and push ahead. This provided us both with a sense of accomplishment in being able to give not only to one another but also to others. I, for instance, took it upon myself to return to the school to which Liezl’s body was donated, for her fingerprints to be affixed to the necessary notice as required by the Department of Home Affairs whilst Bernadette returned to the hospital at which Liezl passed away to have insurance claim forms completed and signed by some of Liezl’s treating doctors.

Dealing with delays

This reminds me of the age-old proverb of the shoemaker’s son that always goes barefoot, as we to date haven’t managed to finalise the winding up of Liezl’s estate. The delays experienced are, however, attributable to the birth of my second nephew, a further heir to Liezl’s estate, my own tardiness in providing Liezl’s executrix with the necessary information and documentation required as it turned my biggest fear into a reality and served as a constant reminder of the immense loss we have suffered; and, last but not least, the backlogs caused by the power outages.

Adapt Estate Administration offerings

Louw-Mari has been practising as an attorney for close to 20 years and she is also a qualified conveyancer and notary. Her business partner, Cari du Toit, has been practising as an attorney for nine years and holds a higher diploma in tax law. Adapt Estate Administrationprovides quality estate planning advice and affordable estate administration services to all.

011 702 8230/071 889 7881 or [email protected]

Laurelle Williams

MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams

Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. [email protected]

Image supplied
Caption: Bernadette, Louw-Mari and Liezl with Bernadette's eldest son.