Dealing with the aftermath of a loved one's passing is never easy. Managing their estate, both big and small, is a significant responsibility that requires careful attention and adherence to a structured process. In this article, we'll take you through the essential steps for handling an estate after someone has passed away, with a focus on the vital role of the Executor.
Whether you're facing a small or standard estate, understanding these steps can help you navigate the challenging path of estate administration with clarity and confidence.
Step 1: Understand the Type of Estate:
The first task is to identify whether the estate is small or standard based on its value. Smaller estates, typically valued at less than R250,000, are simpler to manage.
Step 2: Appoint an Executor and Secure Legal Permission:
In the will, a nominated Executor will be named, and in the absence of a will, the Next of Kin can nominate a person to act as the Executor, often the surviving spouse or a child. This individual, often with the assistance of a professional such as an attorney, seeks official authorisation from the Master of the High Court, known as the "Letter of Executorship."
Step 3: Notify Creditors:
Notify individuals and organisations to whom the deceased owed money about their passing. This is accomplished by publishing a notice in a newspaper and a government bulletin, giving creditors the opportunity to make claims.
Step 4: Establish a Dedicated Estate Bank Account:
The Executor will create a specialised bank account solely for managing the deceased person's financial matters. This account is used for collecting owed funds and settling debts.
Step 5: Collect Debts and Settle Outstanding Obligations:
The Executor begins the process of collecting money owed to the deceased and settling any unpaid debts. The Executor also keeps meticulous records of all owned assets.
Step 6: Step 6: Accounting of the Deceased Estate:
The Executor is responsible for creating a Liquidation and Distribution Account, outlining the estate's winding-up process, subject to approval by the Master of the High Court. This account follows the deceased's will instructions or applies intestate succession in the absence of a will.
Step 7: Decide on Property Management:
If the estate includes property, such as a house, the Executor, in consultation with the beneficiaries, determines how to handle it. If selling the property is the chosen route, the Executor can initiate the process before the full approval of the Liquidation and Distribution account, with the consent of the heirs. However, if someone is inheriting the property, the Executor must wait for the official account approval.
Step 8: Notify All Concerned Parties of the Plan:
Once the Liquidation and Distribution account is approved, the Executor is responsible for informing all relevant parties by publishing a notice in a newspaper and on a government notice board.
Step 9: Manage Property Transfers:
The Executor ensures that all legal processes for property transfers to heirs are correctly followed.
Step 10: Address Tax Matters and Distribute Assets:
The Executor verifies that all tax-related issues are resolved. Subsequently, the Executor can distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the will's instructions.
Step 11: Conclude the Administrative Process:
Finally, the Executor wraps up all administrative details with the Master of the High Court.
Please note that the entire process may take some time, particularly when dealing with financial institutions, insurance companies, and local government authorities. Patience and effective communication with all involved parties are vital to ensure a smooth estate settlement.
If you need help with drafting a will or handling a deceased estate, you can contact Miemie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed and written by: Maret Carroll
Moderated and approved by: Clive Smith