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Administration of Deceased Estates


The South African Law relating to the administration of estates has been developed over many years and ensures protection to both creditors and beneficiaries (heirs). In order to provide this protection, numerous procedures must be followed which are, of necessity, time consuming. No professional administrator of estates can provide an accurate estimate of the time the administration of a particular estate is likely to take, as this will depend upon the nature and extent of the assets and related complications. In order to assist any executor / administrator beneficiaries should take cognizance of the broad outline of the procedure followed in the administration of an estate and this is set out herein.

Appointment of the Executor

The Master appoints the executor, although the executor is nominated in a Will, he cannot act until the Master of the High Court having jurisdiction over the district where the deceased was normally resident has sanctioned the appointment.

To be appointed the executor provides the Master of the High Court with

• The original will and any codicils.

• Death notice.

• Inventory of assets.

• A letter indicating his willingness to be appointed.

The Master issues Letters of Executorships and this confirms the appointment allowing the executor to deal with the estate of the deceased.

Duties of the Executor

Any estate must in terms of the Law be reported to the Master within 14 days from date of death.

The executor is required to

• Publish in the Government Gazette (and in a newspaper circulating in the district where the deceased normally lived) a notice calling upon creditors to lodge claims against the estate within 30 days.

• Obtain valuation of those assets, which need to be reduced to cash.

• Render all outstanding income tax returns.

• Pay the debts of the deceased.

• Calculate and make allowances for any Estate Duty, which might have to be paid.

• Lodge with six months of appointment a Liquidation and Distribution Account reflecting all assets and liabilities and the proposed distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries under the Will. In complicated estates the Master may allow an extension of this time.

Approval of the Liquidation and Distribution Account

Once the Master has approved the account it must be advertised as lying for inspection for 21 days at the Master’s office and Magistrate’s office of the district where the deceased was ordinarily resident.

Distribution of Assets

If the 21-days inspection period has expired without any objection the executor has a period of two months in which to distribute the (estate) inheritance to beneficiaries.

What should a beneficiary do?

A beneficiary should provide the executor with such information and document as may be called for. If the beneficiary was financially dependant on the deceased and funds are required for maintenance purposes, the beneficiary should approach the executor to establish whether it is possible for interim financial assistance to be given. You will also need to consider how you will manage your inheritance.

1. The Will

2. Death certificate

3. Identity document

4. Ante-Nuptial Contract

5. Minors
  • Birth certificates
  • Identity numbers

6. Heirs and legatees
  • Addresses
  • Identity numbers
  • Marriage certificates
  • Birth certificates (if a minor)

7. Divorced spouse
  • Name
  • Address
  • Final divorce order

8. Predeceased spouse
  • Name
  • Date of death
  • Place of death
  • Copy of Will (if available)

  • Type
  • Institution
  • Account number
  • Certificate/receipts
1. Investments

2. Fixed property
  • Title deed description
  • Title deed (if available)
  • Rates and taxes account

3. Movable property
  • Description

4. Life assurance
  • Company
  • Policy

5. Salary/Pension
  • Employer/fund
  • Reference number

6. Debtors
  • Names and addresses
  • Agreements

7. Business interests
  • Type
  • Agreements
  • Balance sheets

1. Insurance policies

2. Income tax
  • Revenue office
  • Reference number

3. Medical aid
  • Fund name
  • Membership number

1. Creditors
  • Name
  • Address
  • Reference number
  • Agreements

2. Funeral
  • Undertaker
  • Address
  • Reference number

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