The Master’s Office & How to Get Letters of Executorship
The Master’s Office is a crucial government institution in South Africa. It has wide interaction with members of the public and legal practitioners. It is responsible for a range of services such as dealing with deceased estates, liquidations (insolvent estates), registration of trusts, appointment tutors and curators, and oversees the guardians fund for minors. Fifteen offices are operating in the various provinces of South Africa.
The two questions that need to be answered are, first, how does this critical government institution function? Secondly, how can Siyatec assist the public to efficiently navigate the Master’s Office when dealing with a deceased estate?
1. Proper preparation of documents.
Currently, the Master’s Office is understaffed. As a result, it cannot deal properly with the inundation of deceased estates. If documents are not properly prepared when submitted, severe delays will occur in finalising the deceased estate. Queries are usually raised if documents are not completed correctly or if
there are outstanding documents.
Getting Letters of Executorship or Authority issued should not be a complicated process. The first step is to report the estate. Reporting the estate encompasses drafting Reporting Documents submitted together with Supporting Documents. Supporting Documents are documents such as identity documents, death certificates and documents that indicate the assets of the deceased person, such as a municipal account.
The Reporting Documents are the Master’s death notice, next-kin affidavit, acceptance to act as executor, inventory and various other Master’s forms. The purpose of the Reporting Documents is to give details about the deceased estate, heirs and assets. When submitting documents, a cover letter indicates the documents submitted and the reason for the submission must also be prepared.
Documents that are properly prepared have the added advantage of going through the “fast track process” at the Master’s Office. This process allows for matters to be processed with the least amount of delays. However, to avail a matter to the fast-track process, it has to be ensured that the estate documents are correctly prepared.
Our role at Siyatec is to assist clients with properly preparing the Reporting Documents and identifying the most crucial documents that must be submitted. Proper preparation of Reporting Documents avoids unnecessary queries that result in delays in issuing letters of executorship or authority.
2 .Following up with the Master of the High Court
Further chaos arises due to the poor posting and filing systems at the Master’s Office. Posting refers to how documents are circulated, from reporting a matter to capturing it and allocating a file to an examiner. There are designated persons responsible for posting documents at each Master’s Office. Unfortunately, this is where documents usually end up getting lost. Besides that, not enough people are allocated to deal with the hundreds or thousands of documents that are submitted at the Master’s Office each day. The implication is that documents could take weeks or even months to get to the assigned examiner.
Documents to report an estate or to respond to a query are submitted to the lodgement department. The letter to submit the documents is stamped, which serves as proof of submission of the documents. When submitting the documents, you must have a copy of the lodgement letter, which must also be stamped when lodging.
Once an estate is reported at the Master’s Office, it is registered, captured, given an estate number and allocated to an examiner responsible for dealing with the file. The examiner’s job is to check if the submitted documents are in order and have no queries that need to be raised and addressed.
Once checked and processed, the matter is referred to the Assistant Master, who oversees the examiner and issues the letter of executorship or authority.
The next article delves deeper into the deceased estate process. For more queries regarding deceased estates or obtaining letters of executorship call Siyatec on 021 2017477 or WhatsApp 073 7767911 or email email@example.com.
Author: Ntsika Sifuba (LLB UWC)
Legal Advisor at Siyatec Executors