Deceased Estates and Wills

Estate Planning – If not now, when?

Having a  validly executed Will is of great importance and will ensure that your loved ones are taken care of and that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. It protects the ones you leave behind from uncertainty and unitended financial consequences.

It is important to see that your affairs are in order and it makes no difference whether you are single, married, have children, or think that you do not have sufficient assets to execute a will.

We offer you assistance in ensuring that the necessary measures are in place so that, upon your death, your estate will be administered in the most efficient and cost-effective way, and without unnecessary delays.

We offer the following services:

  • Drafting of Wills
  • Administration of deceased estates
  • Formation/Registration and administration of Inter Vivos Trusts (trusts established during the creators lifetime)
  • Formation/Registration and administration of testamentary trusts
  • Appointment of guardians to minor children
  • Curatorship spplications

The Estate Process?

When a person dies his/her estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court in the province/s in which he/she resided for the twelve (12) months prior to his/her death e.g. If a person lived in the Western Cape then his/her estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court in Cape Town.

Upon a person’s death, the law provides that his/her estate may be dealt with in one of two ways, depending on the value thereof. If all the assets held in the name of the deceased at the time of his/her death amount to a value of less than R250,000.00, then the estate will be administrated in accordance with section 18(3) of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965 (“the Act”). Once the required documents have been submitted to the Master of the High Court he will issue  “Letters of Authority” to the  Master’s Representative who is thereby authorised to distribute the assets of the estate to the heirs.

If the assets of the deceased amount to a value of more than R250,000.00, it will be dealt with in terms of section 18(1) o fthe Act. Once the required documentation have been submitted to the Master, he will issue “Letters of Executorship” to the appointed Executor which authorises him/her to administrate the assets of the estate and to execute the wishes of the deceased. Firstly, this will require the Executor opens a bank account in the name of the estate to hold account of all monies paid by or into  the estate.  The Executor is further required to publish certain notices in newspapers and the Government Gazette.  Once the administration of the estate reaches an advances stage, the Executor is responsible for drawing a Liquidation and Distribution Account (“the Account”) which is lodged and approved by the Master of the High Court.  Only once this account has been approved, are the  assets of the estate distributed to the heirs. An estate can take anywhere between six months or six years to finalise and very much depends on the complexity of the will and/or estate, locality and accessibility of the heirs and/or legatees and the Master of the High Court’s turn around times.

Reporting a deceased estate requires certain documentation be completed and submitted to the Master’s office. These documents include the following:

  • Original Death Certificate of the Deceased;
  • Original Identity Document of the Deceased;
  • Original Death Notice;
  • Original Will and codicils (if applicable);
  • A Declaration of Marriage by the Surviving Souse indicating how the deceased was married, together with Original Marriage Certificate;
  • Inventory of assets;
  • Affidavit confirming the next-of-kin (if there is no validly executed will)
  • Affidavit confirming that the estate has not yet been reported ;
  • Nomination to act as Executor or Master’s Representative
  • Undertaking by person applying to be appointed as Master’s Representative;
  • Acceptance of Trust as Executor;
  • Certified copy of Identity document of person to be appointed as Executor or Master’s Representative;
  • A bond of security (if applicable)Certified copy of Divorce Order (if any);
  • Certified copy of Identity document of previous spouse (if any);
  • Certified copy of Identity document of predeceased spouse (if any);
  • Certified copy of Death Certificate of predeceased spouse (if any).

These documents must be submitted to the Master of the High Court in order for a Letter of Executorship or Letters of Authority to be issued.

Intestate succession:

Should a person die without a valid Will, the assets of the deceased will be distributed in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987, which determines who inherits.

The lack of a valid Will leads to uncertainty regarding the distribution of assets of the estate and requires additional documents to be filed with the Master in order to confirm which persons are entitled to inherit from the estate (regardless of what the deceased may, in his/her lifetime, have wished).