The administration of a deceased estate is a cloaked and murky process. As laypeople, we may hand over the task to an attorney or bank, wait a long time, see a sizeable fee deducted for executor’s remuneration, and never quite understand what happened in the intervening period. What do executors actually do, and why do even small estates take months (or even years!) to wind up? In this blog, we cover the 11 step process an executor follows to wind up a deceased estate.
Step 1: Meeting the family
The nominated executor will start off by meeting with the deceased’s loved ones to commence the process of winding up the estate.
Step 2: Reporting the estate
At this early stage, she will take possession of the deceased’s original will (if any) and assist the loved ones in completing the necessary documents to report the estate to the Master of the High Court. There will be an initial assessment of the size of the estate to determine whether a full administration process is needed or whether a truncated procedure can be followed if the estate assets are valued at less than R250 000,00.
Step 3: Obtaining letters of executorship
She will send off the reporting documents to the Master, who will then issue Letters of Executorship in her favour, which empower her to handle the estate and liaise with debtors and creditors.
Step 4: Notice to creditors
She will place a notice in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper, advertising the estate and calling on all creditors to come forward and lodge their claims against the estate, within a 30 day period. The executor will receive and assess all claims received.
Step 5: Open estate cheque account
She will open a cheque account in the name of the estate as soon as there is cash in hand. All cash assets and monies due to the estate will be deposited into this estate.
Step 6: Valuations of assets and liabilities
She will determine what the assets in the estate are valued at, and the amount of the estate’s debts. Assets include immovable property, movable property, cash and investments, and claims in favour of the estate. Liabilities include debts and administration expenses.
Step 7: Draft liquidation and distribution account
This is the core of the administration process. Having gathered the necessary information, the executor will draw up a comprehensive account that sets out all assets and liabilities, their values, any cash surplus or shortfall, how the estate must be distributed in terms of the will or law of intestate succession, estate duty calculations, and handling of fiduciary assets. This account goes to the Master for scrutiny.
Step 8: Respond to Master’s queries
In response, the Master will send a query sheet giving details of documents and information required at different stages of the process.
Step 9: Inspection period
Once the Master’s initial queries have been responded to and he is satisfied with the account, the executor will place a notice in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper, advertising the account as lying for inspection for a period of 21 days. During this period, any interested person may inspect the account and lodge objections to it. Any objections are responded to by the Master.
Step 10: Distribution
Once the account has lain for inspection and any objections have been dealt with, the executor must distribute the estate assets by transferring immovable property, delivering movable property, and/or paying cash inheritances over to the heirs.
Step 11: Discharge of executor
The executor will be paid her remuneration and send the necessary proof to the Master to demonstrate that all assets have been distributed as required, as well as a full set of bank statements and unpaid cheques. She can then apply for a discharge as executor, supported by affidavit. At this stage, her duties have been completed.
The administration of a deceased estate is a process with many stages, all of which take time. A professional executor should keep you informed at all stages of where the process is, and what comes next.
For assistance in winding up a loved one’s estate in a timely, sensitive and cost-effective manner, contact us below or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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