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The time following a loved one’s passing is understandably overwhelming. Families are often unsure of what to do next to get the deceased’s estate administration process started. There are several factors to take into consideration that will determine the process going forward. Here are some of the recommended steps to follow and questions to ask yourself in order to initiate the deceased estate administration process:

  • Did the deceased have a Will?

Every person has the right to stipulate their wishes and intentions for their estate after death in a Will. It is then the Executor’s responsibility to ensure those wishes are carried out to the fullest extent possible. This process is ultimately overseen by the Master of the High Court and the Executor has to report to the Master at certain milestones in the winding up process. If the deceased died testate (had a Will), it will serve as the map to proceed. If the deceased died intestate (without a Will), the assets are divided according to intestate succession laws. 

  • Do I need to get professional help?

Yes, probably. The determining factor is the total value of the deceased’s estate. If the total value of the estate is less than R250 000.00, the Master will allow a layperson to be appointed as Master’s Representative. However, for estates with a higher value, it can be a requirement to appoint an agent for the Executor, a professional attorney or accountant with necessary experience and knowledge to ensure the estate is administered according to all the rules and regulations.

  • What information is important?

Everything a deceased owned falls within their estate. This includes, but not limited to: bank accounts, investments, properties, vehicles, debts, subscription services etc. All assets must be collected for proper distribution to heirs, and all liabilities need to be dealt with. It is highly advisable to gather records, while you are living, of anything in your estate that will need to be attended to after your death. 

  • What happens next?

Once the necessary information has been gathered and the forms signed to report an estate to the Master, it is a matter of waiting for the Letters of Executorship to be issued to have the necessary authority to proceed with the administration of the deceased estate. 

  • What do I do in the meantime?

It is likely that there will be running expenses, such as insurance payments for a property, that will need to be kept up with to preserve the assets in an estate. Expenses incurred in these circumstances can be claimed back from the estate if it can be properly verified. Banks and service providers can also be contacted and informed of the deceased’s passing to kickstart their internal procedures, for instance banks ‘freezing’ the deceased’s accounts. Matters can only properly proceed once the Letters of Executorship have been issued but that doesn’t mean everything comes to a standstill and there are important things to enact while in the waiting period.

For assistance with the deceased estate administration process, contact Jeanne Stander at jeanne@curranattorneys.co.za.