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When someone dies, you should ......
14 September 2018  | Pule Mahloko

Death of a loved one is a heart-breaking experience no person would want to endure. The experience of losing a loved one is part and parcel of the human experience that is somehow inevitable. While we may not want to think about it, it is important to know what to do after the death of those we call family. The first step is to gather as much information as you can with regard to the assets and liabilities of the deceased as these form part of his or her estate. Find out if the deceased drew up a will. Whether or not there is a will, the estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court to ensure the lawful liquidation and distribution of the estate.

A deceased person not only leaves behind friends and family but his assets and liabilities also remain behind, these are referred to as his or her estate. It is, for this reason, one should know what to do when a family member dies. The process of paying off the deceased’s debts and distributing his remaining assets to the heirs is known as the administration of the deceased estate. This administration is a process in which a nominated Executor or representative of the estate sees to the liquidation and distribution of the estate, under the authority and supervision of the Master of the High Court. In other words, no person may not deal with the deceased’s estate until he or she has been authorized through a letter of executership wherein he or she will be appointed. It will be the executor who will ensure that the debts of the deceased are paid off and that beneficiaries of the estate receive their respective inheritance.

As the survivor of the deceased, it is important to gather as much information regarding the estate of the deceased. The information gathered will be used by the nominated executor to liquidize and distribute the estate. The executor may be nominated by the deceased in a will. If there is no will in place or a will omitted to nominate an executor, it will then be the prerogative of the Master to appoint an executor. Before an executor is appointed, he or she must first accept the nomination by completing the “acceptance of executership” form.  

When gathering the information, it is therefore imperative to ascertain whether or not a will has been drawn up, wherein the deceased would have indicated how he or she would want his or her estate to be administered and distributed. The executor may not begin to administrate the estate until he or she has been appointed through an issued letter of executership.

Even if there is not valid will in place, this does not impede the administration of the deceased estate, as there are two ways in which an estate may be administered. On the one hand, it may be administered in terms of intestate succession, which is without a valid will. On the other hand, it may also be administered in terms of testate succession that is with a valid will.

After compiling all the necessary information relating to the deceased’s estate, one must report the estate to the Master of the High Court by completing the Death Notice form, the inventory of the estimated value of the estate as well as filing the will (if there is one). This step is essential as it will start the process administering the deceased’s estate.

Reference list:  

The Law of Succession IN SOUTH AFRICA, 2ND Edition


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