Guidelines for the winding up of a deceased estate in South Africa.

Step 1:        At the death of a person, his/her estate is reported at the office of the Master.

Step 2:        The Master issues Letters of Executorship in terms of which the Executor is authorised to administer (wind up) the estate.

Step 3:        After the Letters of Executorship has been issued, a notice is published in a local newspaper in which creditors are requested to submit their claims against the estate within 30 days after the date of publication of the notice.

Step 4:        All amounts owing to the estate must be collected. Fixed property, movable property and shares are appraised by persons specially appointed by the firm, and certificates to assert all other estate assets are acquired. Unless the Will provides otherwise, in estates where the deceased left a Will, estate assets may only be sold to pay debts, or with permission of the heirs.

Step 5:        If the estate is solvent, the estate debts are paid, or arrangements are made for the taking over of debts by heirs, for example the taking over of existing mortgage bonds over fixed property, where applicable, and the payment of the administration costs, and transfer costs.

Step 6:        Within six months after the appointment of an Executor or as soon as possible thereafter, an estate account is prepared and submitted to the Master. This account is a report of all the assets and liabilities as on the date of death and it also reflects the distribution of the net surplus between the heirs.  The distribution takes place in accordance with the directions in the Will, or where the deceased died without a Will, the distribution is done in terms of the law of intestate succession.

Step 7:        The Master examines the account and if he is satisfied therewith, an advertisement is placed in a local newspaper to the effect that the account is available for inspection, should any interested person wish to object against the account.

Step 8:        After the account has lain free of objections, inheritances are paid over to the heirs and any property which he/she inherits, are handed over to them. Fixed property, such as a house, is formally transferred in the Deeds Office in the name of the heir.

Step 9:        After all the assets have been handed over or transferred to the heirs and all debts of the estate have been paid, application is made to the Master for a notice that the estate has been finalised to the Master’s satisfaction.

Step 10:           The firm takes the Executor’s fees allowed by the Master as remuneration for the work done in winding up the estate.  Deeds Office work, if any, is done at the usual conveyancing tariffs.

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