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
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
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.
The Law of Succession IN SOUTH AFRICA, 2ND
OF ESTATES ACT 66 OF 1965