Questions and answers about Deceased Estates
Here are some questions that are often aked and my answers:

Who should report the estate and where?
When someone dies leaving assets of economic value, or leaving a Will, the surviving spouse or closest family member nearby, should within 14 days report the estate to the Master’s Office in the area where the deceased last resided. The Johannesburg Master’s Office at 66 Marshall Street, Johannesburg, serves the greater Johannesburg area, including Roodepoort, Krugersdorp and Randfontein.

I have been nominated in the Will as executor, but I have no idea what to do?
If the total value of estate assets is not more than R250 000.00, you should consider going to the Master’s Office. The officials there help the public to get the right forms and to get you appointed as estate representative, in terms of Section 18(3) of the Estates Act. The procedure for winding up Section 18(3) estates is simple and in most cases, with the help of the Master’s Office, you should be able to wind up the estate.
In all other estates you will need assistance. There are many formalities and pitfalls. You should consult a lawyer who deals with deceased estates and com to a fee arrangement with him.

We don’t know if the Will we have is the last one. What are we supposed to do?
Whoever has it in his or her possession an original Will of the deceased, should see to it that it gets submitted to the Master’s Office without delay. It is not that person’s responsibility to check if it is indeed the latest Will of the deceased. That is for the Master’s Office to determine.

What happens if there is no Will?
The estate should in any event be reported at the Master’s Office. It will be dealt with in terms of the Intestate Succession Act. In simple terms, it means that the law will determine that the closest relatives will inherit and the percentages. If there is a surviving spouse, he or she will be entitled to the first R250 000.00 of the estate.
The Master will request that nominations be submitted by the next-of-kin for the appointment of executor. Whoever is appointed, if that person has no relevant experience, should seek the assistance of an estate lawyer.

I don’t trust the Executor. What can I do?
First prize is to maintain a sound relationship with the executor or the actual person in his office who is involved with the winding-up process. Ask for a copy of the Will and copies of documents you may be interested in. Keep in mind that you cannot demand the furnishing of these copies. The next option is to check the file at the Master’s Office. However, be warned that you may find that to be a fruitless exercise. There is one important “open door”. Before the Executor may distribute inheritances, he must advertise the inspection of the Liquidation and Distribution Account (L&D Account) in the Government Gazette and one newspaper. This document, which sets out the assets, liabilities and who inherits what is available for inspection by anyone for 21 days. In that period any interested party may lodge his objection to the L&D Account. Depending on the amount of money involved, you should cosider employing and estate attorney to safeguard your interests.

What are Executor’s fees?
The official tariff is 3,5% of the gross value of the estate – in other words, the value of total assets without deducting estate debts and liabilities.

How much estate duty is payable?
Estate duty kicks in when the net value of the estate exceeds R3,5 million. The rate is 20% what exceeds R3,5 million and 25% on what exceeds R30 million. There are several allowable deductions, exemptions and other factors that may warrant getting professional advise.