Deceased Estate Administration simplified
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult enough. The estate administration process, shouldn’t’ be.
A deceased estate consists of all assets and liabilities which a deceased person leaves behind at death. The administration of a deceased estate can briefly be defined as the process by which a deceased person’s debts are paid and the balance of his estate is awarded and transferred to the beneficiaries. This process takes place in terms of the law and under strict supervision of the Master of the High Court.
A person who, during his lifetime, executes a valid Will, can determine how his estate must devolve when he dies. The law of testate succession refers to the legal rules that apply to wills and related matters. If no valid Will is executed during his lifetime, the estate is distributed in accordance with the provisions of the law of intestate succession. The only difference with testate and intestate succession is the determination of heirs i.e. the Will (testate succession), will determine heirs. No Will (intestate succession) the relevant laws will determine the heirs.
A few terms defined:
Beneficiaries: Someone who receives a benefit from the deceased estate in terms of the Will or in terms of the laws of the intestate succession.
Executor: The person who is responsible for the administration of the deceased estate. He is appointed by the Master of the High Court.
The person who actually performs the administration process is known as the administrator. The Executor may be the administrator himself, or the Executor may appoint an agent to act on his behalf.
Master of the High Court: The Master’s functions are many and varied. Amongst others, he supervises the finalisation of insolvent estates, the liquidation of companies, guardianship over children, the administration of the guardian fund, the administration of Trusts and the supervision of the deceased estate administration process.
Summary of the administration process
- First interview with family to obtain essential information and to have documents signed
- Reporting the estate to the Master of the High Court, by lodging the signed documents
- Receipt of the Letters of Executorship
- Placement of notice to creditors and debtors in the Government Gazette and local newspaper
- Obtaining valuations of the immovable and movable assets
- Opening of estate late bank account
- The completion and submission of income tax – to have the deceased deregistered as a tax payer.
- Determining whether the estate is solvent and determining a suitable method of administration in consultation with the beneficiaries
- The collection of sufficient cash and settling of debts
- The preparation and submission of the liquidation and distribution account to the Master of the High Court
- Once accepted by the Master, second placement in the government gazette and local newspaper that the liquidation and distribution account may be inspected
- Payment of any further outstanding debt
- Payment / transfer of assets to beneficiaries
- Payment of Master’s fees
- Fulfilment of any final requirements of the Master
It is of utmost importance that the estate administration process be done in consultation with the beneficiaries at all times, in order to ensure the greatest measure of convenience for them. Beneficiaries must be provided with progress at all times.
The estate administration process is a very specialised field which sometimes bring interesting but also very complex problems to the fore.
Where to start?
If the deceased left a Will – an Executor would have been nominated in the Will. Make contact with the nominated Executor to explore the options available. Will they be taking on Executorship or will they appoint an agent to act on behalf of them?
If the deceased left no Will – make contact with the Master of the High Court. They will provide you with guidance and a list of practitioners, registered with the Master. From the list, the beneficiaries may decide on one and enquire whether they will be willing to assist with the administration process.