Being appointed as an executor of a Will can be an onerous task, and it is definitely not one that should be undertaken lightly, especially if you’re just a regular person with no formal training in Estate law. However with the right assistance, you can effectively wind up an Estate, and ensure that you meet all the legal requirements.

Here’s a short list of what you can expect to do if you are appointed as an executor. It is by no means exhaustive, but designed to help you understand a little more of the task before you.

Remember as you go through the motions of winding up an Estate, it is a family effort and you will need their support and you will need to work together to ensure the matter is successfully mediated.

First five steps to take

  • Make 10 copies of the Will you are executing, as well as the Notice of Death (DHA1663) and the Death Certificate.
  • Take the original Will, Notice of Death and certified Death Certificate to the Master of the high court. The Master will open a file for all relevant documents and correspondence, and within a given time frame, provide you with a Letter of Appointment.
  • Make several certified copies of your Letter of Appointment as it provides you with the authority to make the necessary arrangements.
  • Place a Notice to Creditors in appropriate publications such as the Government Gazette and local newspapers.
  • If needed, depending on the value of the Estate, open a Liquidation and Distribution Account.

The Masters’ Office can assist you with most of your queries; however it is advised that you do some research as to what will be expected of you. Remember to take the time to read through the Will and determine who will inherit what and take note of Legacies and Bequests. Legally, you will also have to appoint a lawyer or accountant to help you wind up the Estate.

In a nutshell, you need to determine the value of the assets and liabilities of the deceased, and calculate if there is enough cash to pay off the debt, before distributing the assets as detailed in the Will. If there are not enough available finance/funds on hand, you will have to work together with the beneficiaries to determine a way forward, whether it’s selling some of the assets, or using life insurance policies to repay the debt.

In addition, you will need to ensure that an Income Tax Return is completed and find out if you have to factor Estate Duty and/or Capital Gains Tax into the administration of the Estate.

As with most things in life, there is no such thing as a stupid question, rather ask all the questions you need to, even those that may see foolish. If you have been appointed as an Executor and feel you need assistance, click here and sign up for our free Estate Mediation benefit.