Wills & Estates

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Where do you report a deceased estate?

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

5. 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. 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.

6. Why is a will important?

A last will and testament is the legal document by which you, the testator, identify the beneficiaries who are to receive your assets on your death. In short, this document provides instructions defining how these assets should be divided and amongst whom.

7. What happens if I die without a will?

Should you die without a valid will, your estate will be divided according to the rules set out in the Intestate Succession Act of 1987. In basic terms, the SA Government will use a default will for you. Your assets will be distributed in a way that is different from what you would have chosen had you taken the opportunity to do so.

8. Can I draft my own will?

This can be a minefield for someone who does not understand the laws applicable. Drafting your own will can be potentially dangerous and should be avoided. Failure to comply with the formalities of the Succession Wills Act 7 of 1953 can lead to the will being regarded as invalid. It is advisable to request the assistance of a qualified attorney with the necessary experience.