Deceased Estates: A Comprehensive Guide


Role of Executors in Deceased Estates

Deceased estates in South Africa involve a legal process that takes place after a person’s death. It includes the administration and distribution of the deceased’s assets according to the law and their last will and testament. This article provides insights into the role of Executors, the importance of Letters of Executorship, and the process of administering deceased estates in South Africa.

An Executor is a person authorised by the Master of the High Court through Letters of Executorship to act on behalf of the estate. They are responsible for winding up the estate, which includes settling debts, paying taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. Executors can be a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased, or a professional, such as a lawyer or accountant.

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The Master of the High Court is the office responsible for overseeing the administration of deceased estates. They ensure that the process is carried out according to the Administration of Deceased Estates Act and any stipulations in the deceased’s will. The Master’s office does not directly administer the estate but supervises the Executor’s actions and charges a fee based on the estate’s value.

Letters of Executorship are crucial documents that grant the Executor the legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased estate. To obtain these letters, the estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court by submitting the necessary Reporting Documents. Siyatec Executors offers an Online Consultation service to help prepare and submit these documents, streamlining the process of obtaining Letters of Executorship.

Understanding South African law and the complex process of administering deceased estates is essential for Executors and beneficiaries alike. By obtaining the necessary Letters of Executorship, Executors can ensure that they are carrying out their duties according to the law and protecting the interests of the deceased and their family.

Deceased Estates

Who is the Executor?
The Executor is the person authorized by the Master in terms of Letters of Executorship to act on behalf of the estate and is ultimately responsible for winding up the estate.
This person is usually the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased.
If there is no Will, the close family i.e. spouse and/or children of the deceased must jointly give written nomination of who the Executor of the estate is.
If there is a valid Will, the Executor is nominated by the deceased in the Will.
The Executor does not become the owner of any of the deceased’s property nor does the Executor have the power to do with the deceased’s property as he or she wants.
The power of the Executor to deal with the property of the deceased is limited to:
What is required by the Administration of Deceased Estates Act;
What is stipulated in the Will of the deceased, if the deceased left a Will; or
What is agreed upon by the close family of the deceased i.e. spouse and children of the deceased.

Who is the Master of the the High Court?

The Master of the High Court is the office empowered by the Administration of Deceased Estates Act to ensure that the deceased estate is dealt with according to the proper process.
The Master does not by itself administer the deceased estate. The Master is just the office which oversees the administration of the estate. The Master charges a fee on sliding scale based on the value of the estate. The Master’s fee is excluded from the Flat Rate Fee. The maximum Master’s Fee is R 7 000.00 for estates over and above R 3 600 000.00
The first job of the Master is to receipt the Reporting Documents in good order and issue Letters of Executorship.
Every province has a Master of the High Court. The deceased estate must be reported at the Master’s Office where the person resided at the time of death.
Letters of Executorship (over R 250 000.00 estates)
The Master issues Letters of Executorship about 3 months after receiving the Reporting Documents.
Once Letters of Executorship have been issued the Executor is authorized by the Master to act on behalf of the estate and to continue with the winding up process.
At this stage the Executor will attend to the following:
Open up an estate bank account.
Close the deceased’s bank account and transfer funds into the estate bank account.
Financial institutions where the deceased held policies can be contacted to release payments into the estate bank account.
If there is a house or other immovable property in the estate, the transfer process will start.
First advertisement of the deceased estate in local newspaper and Government Gazette. This takes the form of a Notice to Creditors that the estate of the deceased is in the process of being wound up.
Letters of Authority (under R250 000.00 estates)
In this case the Master issues Letters of Authority which has the same effect as Letters of Executorship.
At this stage the Administrator will attend to the following:
Open up an estate bank account.
Close the deceased’s bank account and transfer funds into the estate bank account.
Financial institutions where the deceased held policies can be contacted to release payments into the estate bank account.
If there is a house or other immovable property in the estate, the transfer process will start.
No advertisement is required and the Administrator can proceed to distribute the estate in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act or Will, if there is one.

What are Letters of Executorship?

In order for the nominated Executor to have any power to deal with the deceased estate, the Master of the High Court must authorize the Executor by issuing Letters of Executorship.
At Siyatec, the point of the Online Consultation is to prepare all the information and documents required to report the estate to the Master and obtain Letters of Executorship.
The heirs of the estate are those persons who will receive something from the deceased estate, this may be a house, money or any other asset such as a car.
Letters of Executorship is therefore the most important document which the Executor needs to act on behalf of the estate.
Letters of Executorship are usually issued by the Master 2 to 3 months after receiving the Reporting Documents.
For the nominated Executor to be authorized by the Master, the estate must be reported to the Master by submitting to the Master the Reporting Documents.
Do you need Letters of Executorship?
What is a Deceased Estate?

The Executor is the person authorised by the Master of the High Court to act on behalf of the estate and is responsible for winding up the estate. This person is typically the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased, as nominated in the deceased’s Will or by the close family if there is no Will.

What is the role of the Master of the High Court in Deceased Estate Administration?

The Master of the High Court is the office empowered by the Administration of Deceased Estates Act to ensure that the deceased estate is dealt with according to the proper process. The Master oversees the administration of the estate but does not administer it directly.

What are Letters of Executorship?

Letters of Executorship are documents issued by the Master of the High Court to authorise the nominated Executor to deal with the deceased estate. This document is essential for the Executor to act on behalf of the estate. Read more…

Do I need Letters of Executorship for estate administration?

Yes, you need Letters of Executorship to administer a deceased estate. This document is issued by the Master of the High Court and grants the Executor the authority to act on behalf of the estate. Without these letters, the Executor cannot manage or distribute the estate’s assets and liabilities.

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