Administration of Deceased Estates (Probates)

In the event of your passing away, your “deceased estate” automatically comes into existence. It is important that you nominate an executor who you trust and who has the right set of skills and expertise to be the executor to the administration of your estate. This will ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.

If you do not have a valid will in place the actual administration of your estate would be delayed and the distribution of your estate assets my not take place in accordance with your wishes. If you die without having a will (intestate) it can create extra stress and expense for your family and friends at a very traumatic time. A will is the only way to ensure your estate passes to your loved ones in the way that you intend.
It is also important to bear in mind that if you have nominated a spouse or a loved one as your executor it may be very traumatic for them to take up the appointment as executor whilst they are also mourning your passing away. It may be more practical to consider appointing an independent person or entity who has the expertise and experience who will remain impartial and unemotional through the process, alternatively you could nominate a family member to be a co-executor together with a reputable company or professional.

Executorship is an onerous administration process and, given that an estate can take anywhere between six months and several years to wind up, it can also be a time consuming and laborious job. Understanding the duties and responsibilities of your executor will help you to identify and appoint the appropriate person to implement the instructions which you have stipulated and recorded in your will.

The time period of administering and finalizing an estate largely depends on the size, structure and complexity of the deceased’s affairs. The administration can also be delayed in instances of delays in turnaround times of the Master of the High Court’s office/District Probate Registry, revenue services, banks, investment companies, property sales (when needed) and when heirs are residing overseas.

The main duties of an Executor are:

  • Registering the death and arranging the funeral (if required).
  • Take control, protect and preserve the deceased’s assets.
  • Establishing the full extent and value of the Estate.
  • Identifying the beneficiaries of the Estate.
  • Paying the debts and administration expenses.
  • Attend to the final income tax return.
  • Setting up Testamentary Trusts (where applicable).
  • Distributing the balance of assets in the estate to the beneficiaries.
Once the Executor is appointed by the Master of the High Court (District Probate Registry), by way of Letters of Executorship (Grant of Probate), they are monitored during the process of administration of the Estate. The Executor is the key person in the Administration of the Estate and has a duty of acting with care, skill and due diligence whilst attending to the administration process. They are responsible for managing the deceased’s affairs professionally and efficiently. During the period of Administration of the Estate the Executor/Administrator is accountable to Registration department (and heirs) and have the legal obligation to follow procedures and regulations to ensure that the rights of the beneficiaries are protected, and the wishes of the deceased (expressed in their will) are fulfilled.

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(ACT No. 66 OF 1965) – SA

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