Administration of Estates – FAQ

1. What is an estate and what does the administration of the estate entail?

A deceased person’s estate consists of the total of his/her assets and liabilities as at the date of death. The administration of an estate is the process during which the liabilities are settled and expenses paid, with the remainder of the assets being conveyed to the heirs.

2. How to report a deceased estate?

The process will differ depending on the value of the estate.

If the value of the estate exceeds R250 000, Letters of Executorship are issued in favour of the Executor, and the full process prescribed by the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965 must be followed.

If the value of the estate is less than R250 000, the Master will issue Letters of Authority in terms of section 18(3) of Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. The Letters of Authority entitle the person appointed, known as the Master’s Representative, to administer the estate without following the full procedure set out in the Administration of Estates Act. It is a simpler, cheaper and quicker procedure.

3. Where do you report a deceased estate?

A deceased estate should be reported at the offices of the Master of the High Court.

  • Where the deceased was resident in the Republic, the estate must be reported to the Master in whose area of jurisdiction the deceased was resident at the time of his/her death.
  • Where the deceased was not resident in the Republic at the time of his/her death, the estate may be reported to any Master, provided it is reported to only one

4. Who must report the estate?

The death must be reported by the surviving spouse or a close relative of the deceased.

5. By when should the estate be reported?

According to the Administration of Estate Act, the estate of a deceased must be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days from date of death.

6. Who will administer my estate?

The person responsible for the administration of your estate is called the executor. An executor is the person appointed by the Master of the High Court by way of Letters of Executorship to administer the estate of the deceased.

His role is to protect your assets, settle your debts, identify your heirs and distribute your assets in accordance to the provisions set out in your will.

7. Who can be appointed as the executor of your estate?

The deceased in his/ her will can nominate a professional person, family member or a friend to be the executor of his/her deceased estate. It is advisable to appoint an attorney who has the skills and expertise to assist the family to the proper administration of your estate.

8. What happens if you nominated a family member with no legal experience, as the executor of your estate?

The nominated person may make use of a qualified third party to assist him/her to perform the duties of an executor of the estate. He/she can appoint an attorney to act as his/her agent to administer the Estate.

9. What are the duties of an executor?

The executor is responsible for the administration of the deceased estate.

This entails the payment of creditors and administration expenses, drawing the Liquidation and Distribution account for submission to the Master, and transferring the remaining assets to the heirs.

10. What will happen to my assets if I do not have a will?

If you die without having made a will, your assets will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987.  This means your assets will be distributed among your family according to the terms of the Act and not according to your own wishes.

11. What are the implications if I draft my will without the assistance of an attorney?

If a will is poorly drafted or not properly executed, it may be unenforceable or legally invalid. This will result in the estate being administered as intestate in terms of the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987. It is far better to engage the service of an attorney to draft your will.