Deceased Estate Process

In Case of Death

A sudden death in the family can be shocking and traumatising, that’s why we’ve compiled a detailed guideline of the immediate steps you need to take after the death of a loved one:

  • If your loved one has died of natural causes outside of hospital, call your doctor, who will tell you what arrangements need to be made;
  • If they have died of unnatural causes, immediately phone the police;
  • Find the deceased’s will, establish if there are any special instructions for the funeral noted in the will;
  • Establish if the deceased had a funeral policy – usually through his or her financial adviser or bank;
  • Make sure that you notify the nominated executor and his or her financial planner of the deceased’s passing. The executor is the person or company nominated in the will to wind-up your loved ones’ affairs.
  • Phone the undertaker or funeral home, who can arrange all funeral matters and help with a funeral policy claim. Alternatively call your religious leader to arrange this.
  • Notify the deceased’s employer and retirement fund;
  • Collect all the deceased’s documents, including his or her ID book or card and death certificate, and make an appointment with the executor or financial planner to report the deceased’s estate;
  • Co-operate fully with the executor and take him or her into your confidence, particularly about your immediate cash and debit order needs. Do not withdraw money from the deceased’s bank account – discuss the issue of urgent cash needs with the executor.
  • Don’t take hasty investment decisions before the estate has been finalised. Consult with the executor of the estate on such and other decisions.

The Administration Process Explained

  1. Establish the date of death.
  2. Lodge the following five documents with the relevant Master’s office within a reasonable time in order to obtain a Letter of Executorship:
    1. Death notice of deceased;
    2. Original will of deceased;
    3. Death certificate of deceased;
    4. List of inventory owned by deceased;
    5. Acceptance of Executorship (submitted in duplicate).
  3. The list of inventory is collated by requesting a certificate of balance at date of death from the various financial institutions (banks, unit trusts, insurance houses) with whom investments were held.
  4. Assets such as motor cars, furniture, houses are to be valued by a sworn appraiser.
  5. Estates with a net asset value (total assets less total liabilities) of less than R 250 000 are handled under Section 18(3) which exempts the Executor of having to open a bank account, advertise or account to the Master with regard to the First and Final Liquidation and Distribution account (L&D).
  6. Once the Executor has his appointment, he/she:
    1. Opens a bank account in the name of the Late Estate;
    2. Advertises in the local newspaper on the same day as the notice appears in the Government Gazette (Friday). This advertisement (notice) serves to inform anyone who has a claim against the Late Estate that they have 21 days to apply to the Executor for acknowledgement of their claim;
    3. Reports the death to the revenue authorities and finalises the deceased’s tax from 1 March to the date of death. Capital Gains Tax is payable at death;
    4. Pays any outstanding accounts eg. doctor, funeral, etc;
  7. When winding up a Late Estate, assets are either:
    1. Awarded to the heirs eg. the property is transferred into the heir’s name or;
    2. Realised eg. property is sold with the proceeds paid out to the heirs according to the will.
  8. The Executor drafts the First and Final Liquidation and Distribution Account (L&D) in accordance with the will.
  9. The Executor calculates the estate duty due to SARS:
    1. If the net asset value (total assets less total liabilities) of the estate is appraised under R 30 million, an estate duty of 20% is liable to be paid by the Late Estate;
    2. If the net asset value (total assets less total liabilities) of the estate is appraised over R 30 million, an estate duty of 25% is liable to be paid by the Late Estate;
    3. Certain items are free of estate duty eg. bequests between husband and wife.
  10. Executor’s fee is calculated per the prescribed tariff, currently 3.5% (RSA-FY:2018) of the Late Estate’s assets plus VAT.
  11. The executor is also entitled to a 6% collection commission of any income received by the estate after date of death of the deceased.
  12. The Executor forwards the Late Estate account to the Master with all the necessary vouchers eg. receipts and certificates of balance.
  13. The Master audits the Late Estate account which may take several weeks.
  14. When the Master is satisfied with the account the Executor must advertise for the account to lie for inspection for a period of 3 weeks allowing anyone to get a copy of the Will and the account in order to lodge a claim.
  15. Once this period has passed and nobody has lodged a claim the Executor awards or pays out the heirs.
  16. The heirs sign an acquittance stating that they have received their inheritance.
  17. The acquittances and the final bank statements are sent to the Master upon which, if satisfied, the Master forwards the Executor a filing notice which stipulates the completion of the estate.
  18. The Executor retains all records pertaining to the estate for the prescribed period.

Estate Administration Process Timeline

The administration process for estates of a gross value of R 250 000 or more is defined in the Administration of Estates Act, in terms of which executors must follow these guidelines:

Notice of Deceased Estate and appointment of executor 6 to 10 weeks
Preparatory work for compilation of Liquidation and Distribution account 6 to 24 weeks
Investigation of Liquidation and Distribution account by the Master of the High Court 4 to 8 weeks
Liquidation and Distribution account for inspection 4 to 6 weeks
Finalisation of the Deceased Estate (after inspection period and no objections lodged) 4 to 8 weeks
Total (of an average estate): 6 to 13 months

Parties Involved

  • The Master
  • The Conveyancer
  • SARS
  • The Surviving Spouse
  • The Executor
  • The Registrar of Deeds
  • The Family
  • The Heirs

Documents of the Deceased Required

The executor needs specific documents of the deceased to complete the administration process in timely manner. If certain documents, such as title deeds of fixed property or share certificates, cannot be traced, the executor must obtain duplicate documents at the expense of the Estate, which may create a delay.

Documents that are usually required include the following:

  • Last Signed Original Will
  • Deceased’s ID
  • Death Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Antenuptial Contract (if applicable)
  • Name & Date of Death of Predeceased Spouse/s (if applicable)
  • Divorce Order & Deed of Settlement (if applicable)
  • Copies of ID of all Heirs
  • Title Deeds, Sectional Title Deeds, Timeshare Certificates
  • Lease Contracts
  • Firearm Licences
  • Vehicle Registration Certificates
  • Share Certificates or Portfolio Details 
  • Unit Trust Certificates 
  • Investment Certificates
  • Last Cheque Book & Bank Statements
  • Deeds of Sale of Deceased
  • All Debts Owed by Deceased
  • Info on Debit & Stop-Orders
  • Copies of Marriage Certificates of all Heirs
  • Postal Addresses & Contact Particulars of all Heirs
  • Name & Address of Deceased’s Employer
  • Deceased’s Employee Number
  • Retirement Fund No, Name & Address of Pension Fund
  • Medical Aid Details
  • Income Tax Details
  • VAT Details (if applicable)
  • Credit Cards & Statements
  • Mortgage Bonds Details
  • Promissory Notes re loans owed to the Estate
  • Credit Cards & Bank Cards
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Short-Term Insurance Policies
  • Safety Deposit Box Details
  • All Business Related Information (if applicable)
  • Funeral, Burial or Cremation Costs Payable from Funds of Estate.

Please be advised that this is a guideline only. Each matter may vary depending on information and technicalities of each Deceased Estate.The process is controlled by the collective stakeholders involved the Administration of the Deceased Estate. Darryn Brick Appraisals and its representatives, directors and associates will not be held liable or responsible for any of the information provided on this website as well as any errors or omissions that may occur.