Deceased Estates

What is a deceased estate?

Everything that a deceased person owned such as a house, money, cars, policies and pension (assets) as well as the deceased person’s debts and expenses (liabilities), forms part of what is known as the deceased estate.

The most important thing that a person owns is the family home. When a person passes away the family home as well as all other assets fall into a deceased estate and is frozen. This means that you will not be able to register the new owner of the family home, or have access to money belonging to the deceased until an Executor has been authorized by the Master of the High Court in terms of Letters of Executorship.

The Executor is the authorized person who will be able to do things such as sign documents and deal with the bank on behalf of the deceased person.

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Who is the Executor?

  • The Executor is the person authorized by the Master in terms of Letters of Executorship to act on behalf of the estate and is ultimately responsible for winding up the estate.
  • This person is usually the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased.
  • If there is no Will, the close family i.e. spouse and/or children of the deceased must jointly give written nomination of who the Executor of the estate is.
  • If there is a valid Will, the Executor is nominated by the deceased in the Will.
  • The Executor does not become the owner of any of the deceased’s property nor does the Executor have the power to do with the deceased’s property as he or she wants.

The power of the Executor to deal with the property of the deceased is limited to:

  • What is required by the Administration of Deceased Estates Act;
  • What is stipulated in the Will of the deceased, if the deceased left a Will; or
  • What is agreed upon by the close family of the deceased i.e. spouse and children of the deceased.

Who is the Master of the the High Court?

  • The Master of the High Court is the office empowered by the Administration of Deceased Estates Act to ensure that the deceased estate is dealt with according to the proper process.
  • The Master does not by itself administer the deceased estate. The Master is just the office which oversees the administration of the estate. The Master charges a fee on sliding scale based on the value of the estate. The Master’s fee is excluded from the Flat Rate Fee. The maximum Master’s Fee is R 7 000.00 for estates over and above R 3 600 000.00
  • The first job of the Master is to receipt the Reporting Documents in good order and issue Letters of Executorship.
  • Every province has a Master of the High Court. The deceased estate must be reported at the Master’s Office where the person resided at the time of death.

What are Letters of Executorship?

In order for the nominated Executor to have any power to deal with the deceased estate, the Master of the High Court must authorize the Executor by issuing Letters of Executorship.

Letters of Executorship is therefore the most important document which the Executor needs to act on behalf of the estate.

For the nominated Executor to be authorized by the Master, the estate must be reported to the Master by submitting to the Master the Reporting Documents.

At Siyatec, the point of the Online Consultation is to prepare all the information and documents required to report the estate to the Master and obtain Letters of Executorship.

Letters of Executorship are usually issued by the Master 2 to 3 months after receiving the Reporting Documents.