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At the time the death is reported, a Death Notice and Inventory of the deceased’s assets are completed and these documents, together with the original Will and Death Certificate, are lodged with the Master of the High Court.

  1. If the person nominated as Executor is the Will is prepared to accept the appointment, he/she must do so in writing.  Such application usually accompanies the above-mentioned documents.  Where there is either no Will or the nominated Executor declines to act for any reason, the Master will appoint an Executor dative.\
  2. In due course – usually within six to eight weeks after application is made by the Executor – the Master will issue the Letters of Executorship.  The Executor will then have the necessary authority to attend to the liquidation formalities and to take custody of the estate property and records.
  3. As soon as possible after the appointment, the Executor must advertise (in the Government Gazette and in one or more local newspapers) a notice calling upon creditors to lodge their claims within a stipulated period, being not less than 30 days.  This advertisement must be in the hands of the Government Printer a week before it is due to appear.  After the expiry of the advertisement period, the Executor will determine the solvency, or otherwise, of the estate.
  4. After the issue of the Letters of Executorship, an Executor must take steps to determine the true value of all the property in the estate.  It often takes some time to gather this information.  This process involves corresponding with the various institutions such as the life assurance companies, banking institutions etc. where the deceased had interests, requesting them to issue certificate of balance, certificate for estate purposes, tax certificates etc.  At this stage they will also list the requirements to transfer or liquidate the investments, unit trusts, etc.
  5. The Executor will then, if necessary, proceed to realise sufficient estate assets to cover the debts, administration expenses and any estate duty.  This involves consultation with the beneficiaries and correspondence with the Master.  In order to realise shares, unit trusts and other like investments it is necessary to update the FICA status of the estate by lodging the required FICA documents in respect of the Executor.  This process may take several weeks to finalise.
  6. The Executor is responsible for the lodging of the final income tax to date of death (as well as any other returns that may be outstanding), including the capital gains tax return for the period 01 October 2001 to date of death (assumed disposal of assets) and the capital gains tax return for the period from date of death until date of sale of any assets sold during the administration of the estate. The process to obtain these income and capital gains tax certificates is very time consuming and usually take a couple of months, depending on the complexity of the deceased’s tax affairs.
  7. The next step is the preparation of the Executor’s Liquidation and Distribution Account and the Estate Duty Return.
  8. Once the Executor has prepared the Liquidation and Distribution Account, it has to be lodged with the Master of the High Court for examination.  It could take some weeks before approval of the account is obtained from the Master.  The Executor must satisfy the Master concerning any queries he might have before the account may be advertised.  The advertisement will appear in the Government Gazette and one or more local newspapers.  The advertisement must be in the hands of the Government Printer a week before it is due to appear.  During the advertisement period (not less than 21 days) interested persons may inspect the account and lodge any objections they might have with the Master.
  9. Once the Liquidation and Distribution Account has passed the inspection period free from objections, the Executor is in a position to pay the creditors and distribute the available assets amongst the heirs.  If there is fixed property involved, the necessary conveyancing process will take some time to complete.  The Title Deeds for the new owner will usually only be available 3 – 4 months after transfer.  The transfer of shares, unit trusts and other like investments to the beneficiaries requires the completion of various transfer documents and lodging of the required FICA documents in respect of the beneficiaries.

Each estate is different and in general it is difficult to commit to specific time frames. Because of the formalities required, few estates can be finalised in less than 9 – 12 months from date of death.  Where the deceased’s affairs are more complex or information is difficult to obtain, the estate administration process will take longer. The fee to wind up the estate is 3,5% (plus VAT) of the value of the assets, plus petties.