Once a person passes away, if they leave behind either a) a Will or b) assets, their estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court.
Below is a basic overview of the process of administering an estate:
The estate must firstly be reported to the Master of the High Court for the area in which the deceased resided prior to his or her death. Several documents are required in order to report the estate such as the death certificate and a copy of the identity document of the deceased. This bundle of documents is then submitted to the Master of the High Court.
2. Letters of Executorship/Letters of Authority
If the Master is satisfied with the reporting documents that have been submitted, the Master will issue letters of executorship (where the estate is worth more than R250 000) to the nominated executor, or letters of authority (where the value of the estate is below R250 000) to the nominated master’s representative. The executor or master’s representative, so appointed, is then free to appoint an agent by a special power of attorney to wind up the estate on his or her behalf. The appointed executor or master’s representative will usually appoint an attorney, due to their expertise in the field, to wind up the estate. If a master’s representative is appointed via letters of authority, steps 6 to 12 can be skipped, and the master’s representative can proceed directly to pay out the estate once the assets have been collected.
3. Estate Late Bank Account
Once letters of executorship or letters or authority are obtained, an estate late bank account will be opened in order to collect any assets of the estate.
4. Collection of Assets
Once a bank account is opened in the name of the estate, the person administering the estate will write to financial institutions to obtain a certificate of balance and request that such institution pay over any funds due to the estate’s bank account.
5. Reporting of Estate to SARS
The estate needs to also be reported to SARS, any outstanding tax returns must be completed, and a tax clearance certificate must be obtained.
6. Advertisement for Debtors and Creditors
The estate will be advertised in the government gazette and in a local newspaper calling on debtors and creditors to come forward with any claims that they may have against the estate and/or come forward with any funds due to the estate.
7. Liquidation and Distribution Account
Once the person administering the estate has advertised the estate and contacted the financial institutions the deceased was known to hold assets or known to be liable to, such person will be in a position to draft a liquidation and distribution account setting out all assets forming part of the estate and all liabilities due to be paid by the estate and how the estate will devolve. Once complete, the liquidation and distribution account is submitted to the Master, who, if so satisfied, will advise that the Liquidation and Distribution Account is advertised.
8. Advertisement of Liquidation and Distribution Account
An advertisement is then placed in the government gazette and a local newspaper, advising any interested party that the liquidation and distribution account is laying for inspection at the Magistrate’s Court for the district where the deceased resided, and that if any interested party wishes to object to the contents of the account, they need to do so within a prescribed period, being 21 days.
9. Certificate of No Objection
Once the liquidation and distribution account has lain for inspection, the person administering the estate will request and receive a certificate of no objection from the Magistrate’s Court. This certificate is then submitted to the Master.
10. Consent to Distribute the Estate
If the Master is then so satisfied, the Master will provide consent that the estate be administered according to the liquidation and distribution account.
11. Proof of Distribution
Once the estate has been distributed, the executor and the beneficiaries must sign affidavits confirming same and provide proof of payment and any transfer to the Master.
If the Master is then so satisfied, the Master will provide a filing sheet providing that the estate has been finalised.