Duties of an Executor of a Deceased Estate

During a person’s lifetime s/he will gather assets, in other words, belongings such as a house or a motor vehicle. A person will also gather liabilities, in other words, credit such as a home or motor vehicle loan. These assets and liabilities will form part of a person’s estate. At the death of that person, his/her deceased estate must be administered, in other words, divided, distributed and controlled by someone. This person is called an executor.

Case study

Charlie passed away and Fiona was appointed in Charlie’s Will to be the executor of his deceased estate. She is not familiar with what this entails and wants to know what her duties will be as an executor. Fiona contacts a LegalWise Legal Counsellor for some advice.

The LegalWise Legal Counsellor advises Fiona that the executor will be responsible for the administering of the deceased estate in terms of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965 and the duties are set out as follow:

  • The executor must meet with the family of the deceased in order to obtain all the relevant information and documentation needed, such as the death certificate and a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
  • The deceased estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court in the area where the deceased lived.
  • The executor must provide notice to the creditors (persons or entities the deceased owed money to) in order to inform them of the death of the deceased. The notice will also request the creditors to institute their claims against the deceased estate within a period of not less than 30 days or more than 3 months after publication of the notice. The notice must be published in a local newspaper and the Government Gazette.
  • All existing bank accounts of the deceased must be closed and a separate bank account must be opened where all money that forms part of the deceased estate must be kept.
  • The executor must determine if the deceased estate has enough assets to pay for the liabilities that forms part of the deceased estate. If there is not enough money to pay some or all of the liabilities, the executor must consider selling some of the assets that form part of the deceased estate.
  • The executor will be responsible for drafting accounts that must be advertised for the public to inspect. These accounts must then be lodged at the offices of the Master of the High Court. These accounts will set out the assets and liabilities, as well as how the deceased estate will be divided and distributed between the heirs of the estate.
  • After the accounts have been approved by the Master of the High Court, the executor must pay the creditors and distribute the deceased estate accordingly.

Case study

Fiona informed the LegalWise Legal Counsellor that she is scared that she will not administer the deceased estate properly and wants to know if she can appoint someone to assist her.

  • The LegalWise Legal Counsellor advised Fiona that an executor can appoint a professional, such as an attorney, to be the administrator of the deceased estate.
  • The offices of the Master of the High Court can also be approached for assistance with the administration of the deceased estate.

The article first appeared on LegalWise