The Administration of Estates Act 1965, outlines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process of settling an estate is legal.
The first thing to do, is find your loved one’s last will and testament. If your loved one did not tell you where their will was before they passed away, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the Master of the High Court to check if they may have a copy of your loved one’s will.
Additionally, you can try calling your loved one’s life assurance company, their bank or their lawyer. Otherwise, your loved one may have left a copy of their will somewhere safe in their home.
An executor is the person who has been appointed to handle the process of settling your loved one’s estate. They will either be cited in the will of your loved one or they will be selected by the Master of the High Court.
However, the Master of the High Court will ultimately decide who the executor of the estate will be. If the elected executor is unfamiliar with the process or the legal procedure, he or she should seek legal advice and assistance.
An executor has a number of responsibilities, including the responsibility of contacting and dealing with all of the beneficiaries.
In addition, they are responsible for the following:
After the executor has been selected, the Master will then give them “Letter of Executorship”. The "Letter of Executorship" gives them alone the authority to handle the estate.
Without the “Letter of Executorship”, the actions of the person acting on behalf of the estate will be considered illegal.
The aim of this is to eliminate the possibility of family members attempting to influence the estate’s dealings.
The executor will also choose how the assets are divided between the heirs and if any of the assets need to be sold. If there is a will in place, the executor will base their decision on it.
Finally, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This will include what they intend to do with all of the assets left after expenses.
The account is then delivered to the Master of the High Court, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of your loved one and that all the legal requirements have been followed and fulfilled
Often, when people leave sizeable estates behind, it causes conflict among the possible heirs. The help and guidance of an attorney, when settling your loved one’s estate, can help you avoid unnecessary difficulties.
However, when an estate is worth a lot of money or if the deceased has children, it is best to seek the assistance of an attorney, as the process may be confusing for family members.
After which, an executor will be appointed, who will act on behalf of the estate.
Within 14 days of your loved one’s death, the Master of the High Court must be notified.
The Department of Justice states that the death of any person owning property in South Africa must be reported to the Master, regardless of whether or not they died in the country.
Estates that exceed R50 000 must be reported directly to the Master of High Court, as the magistrate’s offices have limited jurisdiction.
Van Deventers & Van Deventers Incorporated have a great deal of experience in property transactions including transfers from deceased estates. It is for this reason that we can assure clients of a holistic approach pertaining to all of their assets when planning their affairs.
In addition, we offer sound advice on the tax implications of trusts and other mechanisms available to taxpayers with regards to owning property and managing the tax implications of their estates.
For more information about our Estate Planning and Executor assistance, please contact us.
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