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last will and testament



The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, determines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process is legal. However, if the estate is worth a lot of money or the deceased has children, then it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney, as family disputes and debts of the deceased can be confusing. In order to do this an executor will be appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

Finding the will of a deceased relative

If the deceased person left a will the first thing to do is find it. If they did not tell you beforehand where their will was, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the office of the Master of the High Court to check if they have a copy of the will. Other places to call would be the deceased’s life insurance company, bank or lawyer. Otherwise, the deceased might have left a copy of it somewhere secure in their home.

Who is the executor?

An executor is the person appointed to handle the process of settling the estate. The executor will either be mentioned in the will of the deceased or appointed by the Master of the High Court. The Master will ultimately decide who will take the role of executor. If the chosen executor doesn’t know how to handle the estate or is unfamiliar with the legal procedure, he or she can go to a lawyer for help. Once the executor has been chosen, the Master will give them “Letters of Executorship”, which will give only them the authority to handle the estate.

What does the executor need to do?

The executor has several responsibilities such as arranging the valuation of the estate’s property and assets. They will also be responsible for contacting and dealing with all the beneficiaries.

Some other responsibilities of the executor include:

  • Arranging provisional payments for the family’s immediate needs.
  • Opening a bank account for the estate and depositing the estates money in it.
  • Paying all the necessary estate duties.

It’s important that any person who wants to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate have the Letters of Executorship. If not, their actions would be considered illegal. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased person. This eliminates the possibility of several different family members trying to influence the estate’s dealings. The executor will also decide how the assets will be divided between the heirs and if any or all assets need to be sold. If a will is in place the executor will base his/her decisions on it.

Eventually, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This would include what they intend to do with all the assets left after expenses. This account would be delivered to the Master, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of the deceased and that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Important things to keep in mind?

The Master of the High Court should be notified of the deceased person’s estate not later than 14 days after the death. According to the Department of Justice, the death of anyone who owned property in South Africa must be reported to the Master, whether or not they died in the country.

All estates that exceed R50 000 should be reported to the Master of the High Court directly because magistrate’s offices have limited jurisdiction. If reported to the magistrate’s office, estates will usually be referred to the Master.


  • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2012. “Reporting the estate of the deceased”. Accessed from: on 11/05/2016.
  • Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Accessed from: on 11/05/2016.

Author: Meridian Realty


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  • Margaret Ross says:

    I have my investment which I draw a pension monthly, my money is invested with Old Mutual in SA. I also have my Will with them.
    The beginning of this year I emigrated to the UK.
    Do I need to take out another Will or is it valid in UK. I will still be drawing my pension for at least another 10 years.

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Margaret

      YEI is not qualified to give financial advice. We will ask a local Financial Advisor what they would recommend, but probably best to also contact a Financial Advisor in the UK to see if he/she can assist you with your query. If we manage to get an answer to this, we will post the answer in this forum.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn, YEI Editor

      • Marilynh says:

        Dear Margaret

        We have received the following information:

        It appears that Margaret should draw up a UK Will as well, in order to be able to deal with her assets there, as these will be affected by regulations and laws in the UK. Most people who leave South Africa usually draft two Wills – one for here and one for the foreign assets they hold in a foreign country.

        Should you wish to contact a local attorney, please let us know and we can put you in touch with someone.

        Kind regards
        Marilyn, YEI Editor

  • Bulelwa Mda says:

    Good day

    I would like to know if my father passed away and having kids out of the marriage, whom he never raised, do they have the right to come and tell us that we should sell A and B so that she should get her share because she believes that she has the right to?

  • Precious says:

    Hi my deceased partner passed on without having a will my had only one child so the court says all the estate goes to the child so my partner s mother already took my partner property which were car furniture and so on…so how will my son get all those thing when the family already took them

  • Sheila Inderjeeth says:

    Hi.My mother passed away in August last year.She had a substantial amount of money in her account.The nominated executor of her estate also had access to her banking accounts as she was a paraplegic and partially blind.He moved R300 000.00 (three hundred thousand rand) out of her account for renovations to the house in April last year (she was still alive).To date no renovations to the house has transpired there is no visual or financial evidence of such.The money resides in a fixed deposit account in my sisters name.Can we the beneficiaries request the money to be returned to the estate late account.My sister in whose account the money is in inherits the house.

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