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While it is not widespread practice anymore for every house on the block to get the newspaper delivered to their doorstep every morning, traditional print media still plays an important role in the deceased estate process. Each deceased estate will get advertised at least twice in specific publications and each time for a specific purpose. 

There is no legal obligation on Executors and agents to report to heirs or other people with an interest in the estate on the progress and contents of a deceased estate. However, it is certainly not a cloak-and-dagger situation and much of the information is available to the public at the Master of the High Court’s offices. It is a very transparent process to discourage any corruption, suspicion, or misappropriation of funds. Any interested party can go to the relevant Master’s office with jurisdiction and request to view the file if they suspect something might be amiss or wish to raise a query. This is aided by the estate being advertised in several ways, which includes the blocks of small-print advertisements included in most newspapers.

The first time a deceased estate is advertised it is required in terms of section 29 of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Every executor, or agent in most cases, is obligated, once the Letters of Executorship have been issued to publish a notice in the Government Gazette and in at least one newspaper circulating in the district where the deceased ordinarily resided. The advert calls for all persons having a claim against the estate to lodge such claims with the executor within a certain amount of time. The contact details of the person with whom the claim can be lodged is also included. 

The next advertisement placed in respect of a deceased estate is in accordance with section 35 of the Act. Once a Liquidation and Distribution Account has been examined and approved by the Master of the High Court, it needs to lay open for inspection at the Master’s Office as well as the Magistrates’ Court in the jurisdiction that the deceased lived prior to their passing. The public is notified of this inspection period by an advertisement that is placed again in the Government Gazette and local newspaper. This advertisement indicates the Magistrates’ Court where the Liquidation and Distribution Account will lay open and for what time period, usually 21 days.

In terms of the Act, a visible notice must also be put up at the Magistrates’ Court that an account is open for inspection there as well as the dates when it is open to be viewed. Once the period for inspection is over, the Magistrate issues a certificate to confirm that the account was open for inspection for the specified time and that no objections were lodged and submits it to the Master. However, in instances where an interested party has reason to believe the Liquidation and Distribution Account is incorrect or inaccurate, they can lodge an objection. Such an objection is regulated by stringent rules and regulations, and it is best to consult a professional to assist in that regard. 

Contact Jeanne Stander at jeanne@curranattorneys.co.za for any assistance regarding the deceased estate process.