The administration of a deceased estate is done within the framework of and in compliance with the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. The administration process entails a large amount of detailed administrative work. This article serves as a general overview to give you an indication of what to expect.
All relevant information and documentation are collected to report the estate to the Master of the High Court so as to obtain a “Letters of Executorship”. Almost nothing can be done until the Letters of Executorship are issued. Once all documents have been lodged with the Master’s office, the Letters of Executorship are usually issued within 15-21 working days.
Upon receipt of the Letters of Executorship the Executor will, in terms of section 29 of the Act, proceed to place advertisements in a local newspaper as well as the Government Gazette, calling upon all debtors and creditors to lodge their claims either in favour of or against the estate, within a period of 30 days from date of publication of the advertisement. It is during this 30-day period that the Executor will and provided it be necessary, request the relevant Letters of Authority pertaining to either the forming of a testamentary trust or the amendment of an existing inter vivos trust.
The Executor then sees to the acquisition of all the required valuations of both movable and immovable property forming part of the estate. The Executor also notifies all relevant financial institutions of the death of the deceased, requests the necessary certificates of balance, closes the deceased’s accounts and collects all amounts in favour of the estate.
Once the Executor has obtained all the relevant information, he/she will be in a position to draft the Liquidation and Distribution account. This account is a reflection of all the assets and the liabilities of the estate. This account is, however, usually finalised within a period of six months after the Letters of Executorship were issued.
Once drafted, the account will be lodged at the Master’s office for examination by the Master and upon approval by the Master same will be advertised to lie for inspection for a period of 21 days at the Master’s office. A copy of the account is also lodged at the Magistrate’s court in whose jurisdiction the deceased was ordinarily resident prior to his death. An advertisement in terms of section 35 of the Act is published so as to invite all interested parties to inspect the account and if necessary, lodge an objection against the account.
Once the 21-day period has lapsed, the Master will notify the Executor of any objections to the account and whether or not the account is to be amended.
Provided no objections were lodged and after lapse of the 21-day period, the heirs become entitled to their inheritances and the Executor may proceed to distribute the estate in accordance with the account. Fixed properties are now transferred, which transfer takes place in the relevant Deeds Office. Transfer of motor vehicles, firearms and other movable assets are also transferred now, each in the appropriate manner.
Estate liabilities and debts are now paid as well. The Executor will, in consultation with the appointed tax practitioner, attend to the finalisation of the deceased’s income tax returns and acquisition of the tax compliance certificate.
Once the Executor is able to prove that all the heirs have received their inheritances and that all creditors have been paid, the Executor will be in a position to apply for a filing slip from the Master’s office.
Should the Master be satisfied that the administration of the estate has been finalised, he/she will issue the requested filing slip thereby enabling the Executor to close his/her file. This marks the end of the administration process.
Please note that it is the responsibility of the surviving spouse to apply for continued pension and/or medical cover with the relevant fund and/or scheme directly.