The duties of an executor of an estate - the person who is in charge of the winding up of your estate after you have passed away - is seen as one of the toughest jobs for anyone close to the deceased loved one to undertake.
An executor can be an attorney, friend or family member that the deceased person trusted. The role of an estate executor include the following:
The executor needs to have access to the will, check its validity, establish who the beneficiaries are, and get a rough idea of the relevant information like the collection of the assets of the estate and the liabilities.
In order to accurately complete this task, the executor needs to gather items such as existing bank accounts, title deeds to real estate, insurance policy documents, the marriage certificate (or the copy of the divorce order) and any other documentation that they can find that pertains to the financial affairs of the deceased.
If the beneficiaries are named in a life insurance policy, the provisions of the Will will state the proceeds can be paid directly to the beneficiaries, providing cash to dependents while the estate is being wound up.
An executor has to take inventory of all the assets and the property, by obtaining an official form from the office of the Master of the High Court or from legal stationers.
The inventory should indicate the total amount of assets. If the assets exceed R250 000, the surviving spouse or closest living blood relative of the deceased has to sign the inventory.
If the assets are less than R250 000, the Master of the High Court can shorten the procedure by allowing the estate to be wound up in an informal, cost effective manner.
The executor must obtain an 'Acceptance of Trust' form from the Master's office, which should be completed and signed in duplicate. A copy of the form will be forwarded to the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
The executor needs to apply to the Master of the High Court to be formally appointed and granted the necessary powers to administer the deceased estate.
This process takes up to six weeks, depending on which Master's office is involved. In order to expedite this process, take the following documents along to the Master's office:
The executor should obtain a 'Letter of Executorship" from the Master of the High Court. The letter of executorship is only granted to persons who have been authorised to deal with the estate, and who have agreed to accept the duties of winding up the estate.
Copies of the letter of executorship will be needed by banks and insurance companies.
The above-mentioned duties are a basic guideline for straightforward cases. Possible complications may arise in more complex situations. If your situation is unusual in any way, legal advice is recommended.
For legal advice from attorneys who specialise in Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning and Executorship, contact Van Deventer and Van Deventer Incorporated.
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