Even in situations where a deceased person leaves a clear and uncontested will, the administration of an estate can be a complex process involving many steps. In fact, even many attorneys have a limited concept of how to correctly handle the administration proceedings because this area of law falls outside the range of most legal practices.
Therefore, whether you are planning management of your own affairs or handling the affairs of a loved one, it is wise to consult with Brookes Attorneys to learn how to fulfil all the legal requirements and pave the way for a smooth process. A tested estates attorney who understands these procedures could explain the process, lays the groundwork for a smooth transition, and helps guide the interested parties.
It is also important to be aware that not every estate is required to have an executor appointed. An estate is simply a term referring to the assets and liabilities left behind when someone dies. For instance, an estate might consist of a car, a bank account, and several debts such as credit cards and clothing accounts.
The administration of an estate is an official process intended to ensure that taxes and debts are paid, and that remaining assets are distributed lawfully and in line with the deceased’s last will and testament. In many situations, the Master of the High Court will only require that an executor is appointed when the assets owned by the deceased are valued at more than R250,000.
Moreover, even when an executor must be appointed, some of the assets will not be part of the process. These may include:
Proceeds of life policies where the proceeds of a policy are payable to the surviving spouse or child of the deceased in terms of a properly registered antenuptial contract; Proceeds of a buy and sell agreement between business partners; . Proceeds of a” key man” policy; Assets held in trust;
At Brookes Attorneys, we can help advise if there is uncertainty about whether letters of executorship must be sought or whether certain assets should be included.
The administration of deceased estates is overseen by the Master of the High Court in each particular province. The person named as executor in the deceased person’s will bears responsibility for handling administration. If the executor is a layman, the Master of the High Court will generally insist, if the estate is substantial or complicated, that an attorney is appointed to act as ‘agent’ and in conjunction with the executor.
During the administration, the executor must account for all assets and work to ensure that all liabilities are paid and therefore may have to sell assets to cover costs. In addition, the executor will establish the estate as a separate tax-paying entity with SARS and oversee the payment of taxes.
If the deceased left a will and no one contests it then the estate may be closed and remaining assets may be distributed to beneficiaries. As part of closing the estate, the executor must file a final liquidation and distribution account.
Most people, quite understandably, do not have any idea where to begin when it comes to administering a deceased estate. Fortunately, at Brookes Attorneys, we can help from the beginning, from planning to avoiding issues to managing the administration and finalizing the estate.
Preparation makes the process much easier. But even without preparation, experienced assistance can help see you through the process.