Introduction As much as death is a tough conversation to have, avoiding the discussion does not make its potential fade away as it is the reality of our lives. This article serves to outline the legal consequences in a case of death, more particularly the administration of the deceased estate and the regulations thereof.
When does the deceased estate come into existence A deceased estate comes into existence when a person dies. The general rule is that at date of death the deceased estate is frozen, meaning no one can extract or make use of the funds from the deceased’s bank accounts especially without the necessary approval of the Master of the High. Moreover, when the deceased was married in community of property and all assets were in the name of the joint estate such estate will be frozen. When a person dies with a valid will, he dies Testate and his/her estate will be administered and distributed in terms of such a will, however where there is no valid will the estate will be administered and distributed in terms the Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987. The procedure which must be followed to administer a deceased estate as a whole is prescribed by the Administration of Estates Act, 66 of 1965 (as amended).
How and Where must a Deceased Estate be reported Generally, a deceased estate comprises of both assets and liabilities of a deceased person at date of death that is, immovable and movable property and debts incurred prior to death. The first step taken when a person dies is reporting the estate of the deceased with the Master of the High Court within 14 days by completing the death notice. The death can be reported by any person having control or in possession of any property or documents that is or intends to be a will of the deceased.
What follows after reporting the Estate The importance of reporting the estate of the deceased person with the Master’s office is not only to ensures that the winding up process is rightfully followed and that the deceased’s estate is distributed to the heirs in terms of the deceased’s will or the rules of intestate succession but it also serves to allocate and appoint an Executor whom will under the discretion of the Master administer estate and act in the best interest of the estate by:
Taking control of the assets of the estate;
Gather all information to determine, value and validate the assets and liabilities;
Advertising for creditors and debtors to submit claims within 30 days of advertising (section 29)
Determine whether or not the estate is insolvent;
Open an estate banking account (section 28);
Choose a method of liquidation in consultation with the estate heirs;
Prepare a Liquidation and Distribution Account which must then be submitted to the Master’s Office.
Liquidation and Distribution Account Once the Master is satisfied that the Liquidation and Distribution Account (herein referred to as account) has been correctly drawn the Executor advertises the Account which will lain for inspection for 21 days. After expiry of the Inspection period without any objections to the account, the Executor will proceed to finalize the administration by forthwith paying creditors and distributing the estate in accordance with the account. Finally, the Executor has the legal duty to advise the Master confirming and substantiating that the heirs and creditors have been paid and immovable property and movable property has also been transferred. Thereafter, if all the Master’s requirements have been complied with, The Master will discharge the Executor from all his duties and finalize the estate.