Estate Administration FAQ

  1. Does the value of the estate make a difference in the administration process?
  2. What happens if I get stuck and don’t know how to proceed?
  3. What do I do if the estate is less than R125 000?
  4. There is no will – what now?

Question: Does the value of the estate make a difference in the administration process?


Yes. If you have been nominated as an executor the first thing you need to determine is the value of the deceased estate as this will determine how it should be administered. There is a difference in the process if the estate is less than R125 000 than if it is more than that.

Our guide is for a deceased estate that is greater than R125 000 and includes the forms and requirements necessary to perform your duties as administrator.

Step 1
Gather all the information you can regarding assets in the deceased estate, add them up to determine the total gross value.
Step 2
Decide what you want to do:

* Do I want to save money and do it myself?
* Do I appoint an institution (bank, attorneys, etc) to do it for me (costing substantially more of course)?

If you decide to tackle it yourself you need to check the content of the will and determine how complex it is. For a straightforward will where the assets are left to either a spouse or child, or split between heirs (children or others) it is possible for a capable person to handle the administration. Where things can get tricky are if there is a trust involved or foreign investments or anything unusual. The guide does not cover all possible situations so in these cases you might want to enlist the services of an attorney to get clarification.

Question: What happens if I get stuck and don’t know how to proceed?


Find an attorney or accountant who will be willing to advise you, should you need assistance with the administration process. Negotiate the fee up front!

Standard fees for administering an estate are 3.5% of the gross value of the estate, plus VAT. This amounts to approximately 4% of the gross value, which can amount to a large sum of money. Negotiate an hourly fee or a fixed fee (covering for example a total of 10hrs of consultation).

Question: What do I do if the estate is less than R125 000?


You need to fill out some forms and take them to the Master of the High Court, accompanied by an inventory of the estate. The executor will then receive a Letter of Authorisation from the Master, giving him/her the authority to distribute the assets from the estate as per the will of the deceased.

The following reporting documents are required (these forms are available online at

  • Completed death notice (form J294)
  • Original or certified copy of the death certificate
  • Original or certified copy of a marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • All original wills and codicils or documents intended as such (if any)
  • Next-of-kin affidavit if the deceased did not leave a valid will (form J192)
  • Completed inventory form (form J243)
  • List of creditors of deceased (if applicable)
  • Nominations by the heirs for the appointment of a Master’s representative in the case of an intestate estate or where no executor has been nominated in the will or the nominated executor declines the appointment.
  • Undertaking and acceptance of Master’s directions (form J155)
  • Declaration confirming that the estate has not already been reported to another Master’s Office or service point of the Master

Question: There is no will – what now?


This is an Intestate Estate. In this case the natural heirs as determined by the law will inherit from the deceased estate. These heirs must agree on who they want to appoint as Executor and sign an agreement, which must be presented to the Master of the High Court along with an application by the selected Executor for this appointment.

It is up to the Master to determine whether the requested person will be appointed Executor. If there are minors involved, the process becomes more complicated.

99 Responses to FAQ

  1. Lesley says:

    Can you tell me who gets the accured interest on an investment if an asset has been realised in an estate and the funds invested for specific nominated beneficiaries. Is it the residual heir or the named beneficiary?

    • admin says:

      Hi Lesley
      If the asset was allocated to one specific heir in the will, and this asset was realised and invested, then yes the interest would go to this specific heir/beneficiary. If the asset that was realised just formed a part of the general will to be divided between several heirs however then the investment and any interest on the investment would have to be divided between all the heirs, and it cannot be invested for one heir only then. If any redistribution occurs between the heirs this has to be a written agreement signed by all the heirs and presented to the Master who has to approve it. Once approved then the executor can distribute the assets according to the approved agreement.

      I hope I’ve understood your question correctly and that this helps.

  2. anyah says:

    please help us, we have an executor who is winding an estate for 3 years now with no success. i have written to the master of high court twice with no feedback at all.
    what is our way forward?

    • admin says:

      The only person who can approve a change in executor is the Master of the High Court though, so if you aren’t getting any feedback through writing, I suggest you go to there in person. Write a letter explaining the situation and that you have no confidence in the current executor and that you wish to appoint a new one – the reason has to be a good one for the Master to change the executor so be convincing and of course sincere in the letter. Then deliver it personally, asking to speak to the person (usually an assistant master) in order that you can also explain the situation verbally. Take down the name of this person and follow up telephonically or in person until you get a resolution to your problem.

      Our experience in handling estates has shown that going to the court personally is always a better option – it definitely speeds up the process, plus you have a name and phone number to follow up. I sincerely hope you manage to sort this problem out!

  3. thembsile says:

    I am an administrator my late father’s estate,due to infightings with my siblings it took me a bit longer to pay the debts and other things related to the estate . But am remaining with 1 debt hopefully its the last,I put the remainder of the money in the bank,so that we can share.kept all receipts,then the master called with specificatitions ,bring the original copy ofletter of authority ,and come alone,we want to change the reasons given, since the death of our father. I have been calling for peace to no avail,called to discuss finances /what to do about the money?without hearing my side of the story the master wants to change the administration.I not only feel betrayed and devalued.

    • admin says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your troubles with your late father’s estate. Unfortunately if the majority of the heirs agree on changing the executor nominated in the will, they are entitled to approach the master and request a new executor, but have to give solid, valid reasons for their request. The final decision is the master’s though, and if he/she is persuaded by their petition then there isn’t much you can do about it (unless you are willing to go to court to contest it, which is an expensive exercise).

      It’s always sad if there are disagreements between the heirs, and I hope you are able to resolve your situation amicably.

  4. Colleen says:

    I was the executor of my late father’s estate in 2001. In May 2002, my four brothers had me removed as executor. However, the reasons given were invalid and the removal was unlawful. My attorney at the time, did not respond to the Masters request for response to their letter in time and the date on the letter was incorrect. It has now been 10 years since my father’s death, I am still paying all the household debt and maintenance, no new executor has been appointed yet. Two of my brothers stay in the house, I live in the separate entrance at the back, they do not work nor contribute to any expenses. They are drug addicts, allow teenagers to use the house as a safe haven for drug use, harbor criminals and use the house as a brothel. This estate really needs to be wrapped up soon because the situation is out of control. How do I apply to be reinstated as executor or what is the next step for this situation?

    • admin says:

      Colleen, it sounds like a terrible situation! What I would suggest, since you were named executor in the will, is to approach the Master of the High Court yourself. Get all the documentation together regarding what happened in 2001/2 and any other proof of what you claim in order to substantiate what you say. Write a letter explaining it all, then personally take the letter with you to the High Court and ask to speak to someone in person. Do take the original will where you were named as executor too (or a certified copy, which I presume you have as the original should have been handed in to the High Court then). I cannot understand how 10 years could have gone by without the Master doing something about it – very strange. What is the value of the estate – with a property involved I presume it is over R125 00 (in 2005)? I wish you success in sorting this out (and get a new lawyer because you need someone who helps you, not makes it worse)!

  5. Lester says:

    Hi I have been nominated as Executor in my Dad’s estate – relatively straight forward a as everything is left to my mother, no outstanding debts, except a property in their joint name. The Master has requested I am assisted by a Trust or Attorney in order to be appointed as a Executor. I have a B.Comm degree and have corresponded twice with the Master with no success. What options are available without incurring Attorney fees.

    • admin says:

      Lester, if you have been named as executor then you should be allowed to do the job and the law allows you to do so. The Master often insists otherwise because they don’t want to be bothered by people asking what they need to do (quite rightly, because that is not their job). I suggest you approach someone willing to assist you on an hourly basis SHOULD you require it, which normally satisfies the Master – just so they know you won’t be asking them for help and that if you do get stuck, this person can help. I will send you the letter we normally include in our guide which might help you with what to say in your request.

  6. Ruth says:

    What does the law say in terms of the duties of an Executor when it comes to ommunicating with other beneficiaries? Is the Executor allowed to just carry on without consulting other beneficiaries to the Estate or at least informing them of progress of the Estate? My daughter is a minor beneficiary to her late father’s Estate who had since remarried at the time of his death. It has been 18 months since he passed away and we have not heard anything from the Executor and when I ask questions I get told by the Laywers that there is nothing obliging the Executor to communicate anything to beneficiaries, and that I should wait until everything has bee finalised, and only then I will get communication. She is currently incurring unnecessary expenses which are becoming a burden on the Estate. I don’t want to get a Lawyer as I believe I should have access to any information I need with regard to progress of the Estate.

    • admin says:

      Hi Ruth, my suggestion is that you contact the Master of the High Court with regard to your dissatisfaction of the Executor’s attitude and your observations as to her performance of her duties. You are entitled to challenge the Executor and request a new one to be appointed, but this has to be an agreement between all the beneficiaries. Write a letter signed by the beneficiaries (or if they are minors, their guardians). If the Master finds that your claim is valid, he can overturn the Executorship and appoint a new one.

  7. Julie says:

    I am the executor of my late husband’s estate. I asked a family member, who is a lawyer, to assist me in winding up the Estate. He offered to do it for me, but unfortunately costs were never discussed. He received the Letter of Authorisation from the Master (I think that’s what it is) in March and has just sent me an “anticipated” statement of costs, including his fees to the value of R31 000 (excl. VAT)! Total anticipated costs are in the region of R44k (the approximate value of the Estate)!! Fortunately, I have not signed the PoA yet. Although I am currently completely ignorant, I can and will learn fast as I want to and need to proceed myself. It’s an extremely simple will. Please can you suggest the best way forward. I would have purchased your book, but the value of the Estate is less than R125k. Thank you so much.

    • admin says:

      I suggest that you discuss this with the lawyer concerned. Executor’s fees can only be up to 4% of the total value of the estate (including VAT) so if he’s asking more he’s in the wrong. Approach the Master of the High Court with this because they monitor whether fees are excessive or not. If the will is simple you will be able to do it yourself, because an estate less than R125K needs far less red tape. If you require more help please send me an email.

  8. Patricia says:

    My father passed away last year and had a will and nominated my mother and a company as Executors. The only asset he had was a car and debt with ABSA bank to the amount of R25000+-. There was no money in the estate and I sold his car and gave R600.00 to the executors against the ABSA account. I have been chasing them for a year to get finalisation and was told today that they are giving Absa R3000.00 as settlement and keeping the balance for themselves. However, when my father died, they gave me a letter confirming that they would not be charging any fees due to manage his estate. What do I do about this now or who can I speak to as I feel the R3000.00 owing should go to my mother. Pls advise.

    • admin says:

      Hi Patricia, I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. As ABSA and the executor/s are creditors, they are entitled to be paid first and what is left (if anything) will only be distributed to the heirs unfortunately. However, if you have proof that the executors agreed not to charge for doing the work, then they are being unethical in going back on their word. I would take this proof to them and speak to the most senior person involved and see if you can resolve it amicably. If they don’t co-operate you can look into taking legal action – try and approach a Legal Aid organization for advice before you spend any money on it however to see if you have a case.

  9. Carla says:

    A letter was received from the Master requesting a section 27 inventory be lodged, after letters of executorship were issued.
    Kindly advise where a prescribed form can be found, as I am aware of the content of the inventory but not the form itself.
    Thank you.

  10. Nicole says:

    My father recently passed and I need some input in regards to his real estate. At this time there may or may not be a will. We have not found it but heard there might be one… We are 3 siblings, however I live in the US, one brother is estranged and the other brother and I have been communicating to get things started. My brother asked my dad’s attorney to take care of the estate for us and I have been in contact with him though I am still waiting for papers to sign, (only my brother did so far). His house is paid for and we have a family member moving in and signing a short term lease in exchange for doing some repairs to the property. I am quite happy with this. 1.) Can we do this? 2.) What if after we sign a lease we find a will that gives specific instruction? 3.) What if we want to sell the house? 4.) Does the attorney need all of the siblings to sign “paperwork” to take care of the estate for us. I am quite capable of doing it all but being so far away poses some challanges.
    Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Hi Nicole. The first thing you need to do is find the will, because the process of administering the estate depends on whether there is one or not. So I suggest someone goes through every possible document your father has kept to try and find it. If none can be found, then the estate will be handled as an intestate estate, and then it’s up to the Master of the High Court to appoint an executor and he will inform you what to do. If you are unhappy with the executor appointed then you’d all 3 have to sign a letter for the Master to appeal this decision, but otherwise I don’t see any reason for all 3 of you to sign paperwork. Read our article on intestate estates. I don’t see any problem in allowing someone to lease the property until such time as the estate is wound up, although any income from it will go to the estate and an accounting record must be kept of anything to do with it.

  11. Carla says:

    Thank you for your reply, but the Master is specifically referring to a section 27 inventory, not the normal J243. And the section 27 form is not available on the metioned link. Can you possibly assist ?

  12. Stephen says:

    Are Executors allowed to receive a referral commission from an auctioneer in respect of assets belonging to the estate which are auctioned ie over and above their remuneration as allowed by the Master and, if so, do they have to disclose this to the heirs?

    • admin says:

      Hi Stephen, to be honest, I don’t know, but if it is deemed as income to the estate then it has to reflect on the L&D account. If you would like us to find out the legal stand on this I could do so – please let me know.

  13. Ron says:

    Would you clarify a small point – can a sole beneficiary act as the executor? I’m thinking of where a Will leaves everything to a surviving wife and also appoints her to be the executor. Is there not a ‘conflict of interest’?


    • admin says:

      Hi Ron, a beneficiary can be an executor no problem, but cannot be a witness to the will. So you can make your wife your executor if she is the beneficiary yes.

  14. robin scott says:

    My mother passed and I am the administor of her estate. There is only $1800 cash and a house value of $112.000. I paid out of my pocket for the admin/fee etc.. I was told that I can charge the estate 3-6% in Va. Can I take my fees and my out of the pocket money out of th $1800.00. The house currently has a mortgage and is on the market to be sold.

    • admin says:

      Robin, your values are in $ so it appears you are not a South African resident, and we unfortunately cannot comment on non-SA estates.

  15. Any says:

    Hi, can you please explain to me what documents I, as a heir, need to finalize an estate. For example, if i am currently separated from my partner, do I need an antenuptual contract to be able to inherit from my father’s estate?

    • admin says:

      As an heir you don’t need any documents other than your ID to prove you are indeed the heir mentioned in the will.

  16. Caroline says:

    My mother passed away in 2009 and I have been having trouble with her estate ever since. Her estate is a section 18(3) estate and the value is less than R40 000.00 My mother left everything she had to her 3 daughters (myself, my sister (now 21) and a minor (now 16). The minor has been placed in my care (foster care). My mother had a will which states she leaves all to her 3 daughters and that the funds must be placed in a trust until the beneficiaries are 25 and this trust must be administered by a trustee.. She also had debt of +-R7000 at a bank. According to the will the executor (and trustee) should have been ABSA, but they renunciated their executorship due to the fact that the estate is a Section 18(3) estate. I appointed an attorney to do the estate. I could not administer the estate as the Master said an attorney must be appointed as a minor is involved. They also say that a trustee must be appointed. The attorney and trustee must be paid from the +-R35000, the bank must be paid and then the remainder (very little) must be distributed amongst the 3 daughters. Isn’t there anything the master can do to change or declare the will invalid? Can I be held liable for any costs? Thank you

    • admin says:

      Caroline, I suggest that you go to the Master’s office and discuss the issue with them as the estate is very small and to have to pay attorneys and trustees as well leaves very little for distribution. An estate under R125 000 they normally allow the executor to distribute as per the will without the process a larger estate has to go through.

  17. Sipho says:


    I wanted to find out if we appoint one of the beneficiaries an executor to our mother’s estate, does this mean he is entitled to the Executors fee of 3.5% of the value of the estate?

    • admin says:

      Hi Sipho, the answer is yes – regardless of who the executor is the maximum fee they can charge is 3.5% plus VAT. You can however, when writing a will and appointing an executor, request that the executor charge no more than an agreed percentage. It is then up to the nominated executor whether he/she will accept the job at this percentage or not.

      • Sipho says:

        Good day, just to give you a bit of background on my case. My mother passed away early this year. She was a pensioner but had invested some of her capital (cash). This was for her children when she passed away. My older brother appointed lawyers to sort out her estate. After that he came to us with a form requesting us (siblings) to consent assigning him as an executor. What confuses me is if we’ve already appointed the lawyers, why do we need to appoint him as an executor. Does this mean we will have to pay him and the lawyers?

        • admin says:

          Sipho, it all depends on who was nominated in the Will as the Executor (you don’t mention the Will). The nominated Executor is the only one who can do the job, unless he/she refuses to do the job, in which case a new Executor must be appointed with approval from the Master’s Office. So find out what the Will says. The max payment for an Executor is 3.5% plus VAT of the gross value of an estate – if there are 2 or more Executors then this must be split between them (or as agreed between them how much each will earn).

  18. Lesley says:


    We are busy trying to wind up a deceased estate for my gran. A quick question on the inventory form: is it the net value, or just the assets (i.e. if you own a house for R1 m and you still owe the bank R0.2 m, do you show the full R1 m under the inventories, or the net of R0.8m?)
    I do not see a place for liabilities so i would imagine it’s the net amount that needs to be shown but just hoping to confirm this.

    • admin says:

      Lesley, You have to list the gross value of the assets and all the liabilities go under the Liabilities section when you do the Liquidation and Distribution account later on in the process. The Inventory is exactly that – a list of all assets and their full values at the date of death.

  19. Christine says:

    Hi there, my father died last October 2010 and left everything to me(including the farm). He had no debt.
    The executors decided that they don’t have enough persons to work on the estates in our town and are moving it to
    another department in another town. I’ve been waiting for ten months now. What is the standard time frame to complete the administration of the estate? I have a lot of expenses related to the farm, and need capital to drive it.

    • admin says:

      Having waited for 10 months I suggest you get a name/phone number and contact the person who has been appointed to be executor. Who are the executors? If you are dissatisfied with their performance you are entitled to approach the Master’s Office and request new executors to be appointed (even yourself as the daughter), but you need proof they are not doing the job. It really is best if you establish a good working relationship with the person appointed executor, so try that first. There are time frames to work within, but these are not applied strictly it seems as there are many cases where an estate drags on for even years. As the heir however you can push this along with help from the Master’s office if the executor/s don’t co-operate.

  20. Susan says:

    Thank you for an informative website and for sharing your knowledge. A question: Is there a point at which executors (in this case a firm of attorneys appointed as per the will) are legally bound (either by law or professional code of conduct) to directly inform heirs of the fees they will be charging as executors of a deceased estate? Or does one have to ask? I am aware of the ex VAT 3.5% on assets and 6% on income as per the Act but in our situation the executors are apparently applying a slightly reduced fee on the assets and an accountant (also an executor as per the will) has agreed to charge by the hour. Was there a point at which the heirs should have been informed of the arrangement? Letters of Executorship were issued over six months ago. Which brings me to another question: Is the law firm obliged to inform heirs of the actual name of the firm’s nominee? In our experience, if you are not informed, one ends up dealing with admin staff and not the individual responsible.

    • admin says:

      As a named heir you are entitled to query the progress of the estate administration by the executor/s, and of course who has been appointed to do the job. You need, in my opinion, to know this because if the executor is not doing a good job you are entitled to approach the Master’s Office to request the removal of the executor and appointment of a new one. You need sufficient and good proof and have a valid case of course as they don’t want to be bothered by invalid queries – it will just make the case works. I would suggest visiting the attorneys’ office in person and requesting to see the LE and any progress (documents). There shouldn’t be any reason they shouldn’t co-operate as there should be nothing they need to hide if they are above board. It’s good to have a good relationship with the executor, so try and work on getting that. The accountant’s per hour rate is a good thing, as long as the overall fees paid to anyone involved in the administration does not exceed the 3.5% + VAT of course, so you need to keep an eye on that.

      • Susan says:

        Thank you for the good advice. In our case it is becoming extremely difficult to develop a good relationship with the executors. My grandmother’s will is pretty simple; a few cash legacies and then the balance to her grandchildren. Most of the assets are in listed shares and we were initially asked by the executors if we wanted to take transfer of the shares or cash but were, a month later, abruptly told that it would be simpler & quicker to just sell all the shares and only distribute cash (since the will allows them the to sell assets they have gone ahead & done this). Their reasoning also seemed to be based on that fact that the majority of heirs had requested cash. The problem is that since date of death the listed shares have made a substantial capital gain. Am I correct in assuming that:
        1) CGT will now be levied on this gain (the gain is well above the individual annual exemption) and will be payable by the estate?
        2) Executors fees that would have been charged on the value as at date of death will now be charged on this new larger amount?
        3) Will this increase in value be added to the estate duty calculation since the shares were, it seems, sold in the course of liquidation the estate?
        There seems to be a difference between liquidation and distribution of an estate but I am struggling to understand how this impacts on this particular situation. Basically, my question is would this sale of shares have attracted the same fees and taxes if they had been sold in the course of distribution to the heirs or is their no difference? I definitely need to buy your book and will send you an email. Thank you so very much.

  21. Morgan says:

    Hello. I have been stuck with this problem for a year and can’t find a way out.

    My father’s wife passed away 2 years ago. The estate has not been cleared up yet. She was gracious enough to help me with debt I had. She bought a car for me and it is being paid off monthly. We signed a contract for a total amount (the debt+car). The car was in her name for insurance purposes and I was named a second driver.
    The executor of the estate is her daughter.

    I’m trying desperatly to sell the car it is costing me too much but they will not allow me to have ownership until the full amount of the debt is paid. I want to sell it so I can pay off what I owe.

    Please help. Any advise would help. A next step, someone to speak to.


    • admin says:

      Morgan, unfortunately since she is the legal owner of the car and is deceased, it forms part of her estate. Your only option is to negotiate with the executor (her daughter) or return the car. I would suggest you go to a Debt Counselor though, who might be able to sort out a payment plan for you since that is what they are there for (just Google ‘debt counselor south africa’ for one near you). On another note, the estate taking 2 years is way too long, but that’s not your problem.

      • Morgan says:


        Thank you for getting back to me. There have been a few developments with my car situation recently.

        I was involved in an accident with previously said car. My insurance company would like to to pay me out but can only do so to the owner of the car(estate) I owe currently 26000 to the estate and my insurance wants to pay me out 20000 for it.

        What i would like to know is does the estate give the go head for the payout or do i give it?

        My concern is: If i have been paying money into the estate and i give the insurance company the go ahead to pay the 20000 into the estate account does this mean that i only have to pay the 6000 to be clear of my debt ? or can the estate demand i still pay the money back and take the car anyway?

  22. Sandra says:

    We have an attorney who is the executor of my mom’s estate. Three of the occupants of the house we want to sell are beneficiaries. None of them are making any contribution and refuse to settle an arrear rates & taxes bill even though they had an income from a tenant.
    What are our options. We want to sell the house for various recent one of which is the fact that the property is poorly maintained thus reducing the value of the property.

    • admin says:

      Sandra, your attorney should know what to do so it surprises me a bit that he/she is not doing anything constructive. As to what happens to the house, that depends on what your mom’s will said about it. If it says these 3 beneficiaries are entitled to stay in the house then you won’t be able to sell it, but if the will says the estate is to be divided equally between the beneficiaries and you’re one of them, then the 3 in the house must either pay you out your portion or the house should be sold and the money divided between you. It really all depends on what the will says.

      • Sandra says:

        Hi there, thank you so much for your comment. We will definitely get in contact with the attorney.

  23. windy says:

    hi, i have been nominated executer of my husband estate, maried in customery law nd did not registerd mariage with home afairs but has agreement of both families, will there be problem in procesing his estates. Can i apoint an atoney to do everything for me.There is no assets as we were renting nd the car is in my name. There is furniture which am not sure its part of assets in question and pension, retirements policies which might amout to R 350,000. How do i go about it.

    • admin says:

      It all depends what the Will says – are you named the heir? If you are named as heir in the Will and it is a valid Will then you should inherit regardless of your marriage documents. You say there are no assets, but furniture does form part of assets, as do any financial investments. Policies and pensions are usually distributed according to beneficiaries named in them (always advisable to name a beneficiary!). The pension fund’s trustees will however first determine whether there are dependents involved (specially children), and will distribute the funds according to the will and their findings. You should therefore:
      1. See what the Will says – is it a valid Will and who is named as heir/s
      2. Determine what the policies say and if beneficiaries have been named or not – this is very important as it affects step 3 below.
      3. List all the assets – everything he owned (including furniture and anything else), value them and add them up. If this is more than R125 000 then you will have to go through the entire Deceased Estate process as an Executor, or appoint someone if you feel you can’t do this yourself (if you were named Executor in the Will). If it is less, then you still have go through a process, but a much simpler one.

  24. Alister says:

    Good day. My wife & I have wills lodged with a bank who are the executors. We want to update & change our respective wills on our own & appoint our son as the executor in each will. We intend using your book & so save him some money. We have a daughter as well. Questions – 1) Our son lives in Australia – is this a potential problem? Will he have to spend a long time back here in order to carry out the requirements of an executor? Our daughter also lives over there. 2)How do we go about cancelling the old/previous will with the bank? 3)If & when one of us die first then the remaining spouse will inherit all. If there are simultaneous deaths, should this be stipulated in the will that our combined assets go to our next heirs – ie our 2 children? We were married out of community of property in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. There was no nuptual contract.

    • admin says:

      Alister, it’s a good idea for you to revise your respective wills yes, and appointing one(or both) of your children is a good idea. Keep the wills very simple – there is no legal reason for it to be multiple pages and long-winded unless you have complex financials and wishes.
      1)The fact that both of your children are in Australia is a problem however, as if they were to be executors they would need to be here in order to fulfill their duties (you need a local address for administration purposes), so if they are willing to stick around here until the estate is wound up it will be ok. If that isn’t possible, it would be better to appoint someone else locally that you trust. You can negotiate the executor’s fee upfront if you want, and appoint a backup executor too.
      2)To cancel it with the bank you simply need to advise them that you have a new will and that they need to destroy the old one. Do this only after you’ve done the new one however – should anything terrible happen you will be covered then at least, and the last one is the one that will be used anyway.
      3)Yes, add a clause that should you both die within 30 days of each other everything goes equally to both children.

  25. Karen says:

    Hi. My mother recently passed away. The executor that has been appionted in the will is no longer in business. How do I go abut getting myself appointed as the executor?

    • admin says:

      Karen, the executor doesn’t have to be in business in order to still do the will, although if they no longer wish to do the job, then you need to get them to write a letter resigning from the appointment. If it was a company that was appointed, then you can approach the Master’s office with a request that you be appointed as the new executor, but you will need to furnish proof that the original executor can no longer do the job. If there are multiple heirs then you will need their approval too however (in writing). The Master normally prefers to appoint someone who stands to inherit, so being a family member will make you more acceptable. I hope you succeed!

  26. John says:

    In the case of persons married in community of property are estate duties & executor fees applied to 100% of the estate on the death of each person or is a 50% split applied?


    • admin says:

      Being married in community of property means the estate is made up of assets belonging to both parties, so unfortunately the short answer is yes to the 100% where fees are concerned.

  27. Britt says:

    Hi – my Mom passed away on 27/07/11. There is no will but she did express her wishes to all of us that everything go to my father – she just got too ill too quickly to sign a will. There will be no arguement with regards her wishes. The only asset is a house which is in both names, with small outstanding bond. My concern is that both were state pensioners and having to appoint a lawyer etc and all the costs that go with transferring the property etc, there really is no money to pay for all of this – selling the house is not an option as it is my father’s home. Are there more cost effective ways of doing this?

    • admin says:

      Britt, the fact that she died intestate (no will) means that the Will will be dealt with by the Master’s Office accordingly, and the legal process of succession will apply. Because there are descendants other than the spouse, the assets will be split between your father and you as children. It is up to you to give your shares back to your father if you wish afterwards, but legally without a will that’s the way it goes. Transferring a property will require a lawyer however, but the cost of transfer in a deceased estate is not the same as when you buy a property, and you can negotiate the amount with them too – shop around to find someone prepared to charge the minimum. If there are no funds in the estate to cover any fees then normally the assets will need to be sold, but if you as children are willing to pay them to help your father then this is ok, or to take out a loan in order not to have to sell the house.

  28. Karin says:

    Please could you tell me if Life Insurance Policies (with beneficiaries named in the policies) are included as an asset and therefore contribute to the total amount of the Estate? What about Retirement Annuities?

  29. Kabelo says:

    I need some advice. My late grand parents are survived by three daughters and on son. They have left a house and there is no will. My mother is staying at that house ad she has been stayimg there since late 2003 with my grand parents. Now the other siblings except for my mother want to sell the sell the house. I want to know how can we protect her tenure rights and what measures can we put in place for the house not to be sold.

  30. Jackson says:

    Hi, my uncle who died intestate 20 years ago owned a 25% share in a family property. The property is now due to be sold and his share in the property was all he owned. Since it was not done prior, I have to go through the process of reporting the estate. The value of his 25% share was under R50000 at the time of his death and exactly R125000 currently. Which value would be applicable when reporting his estate? Can I still follow the current normal process of reporting an estate which should have been done 20 years ago?

    • admin says:

      The value of an estate is what it is at the date of death, although interest earned from date of death is added to the estate until the day it is wound up. As the value is R125 000 though it is at the cut-off point for full administration – I’m sure the Master will probably give you authorisation to distribute the assets if your inventory lists them as this one amount at R125 000.

  31. Giselle says:

    A question on paying creditors of the estate: my mother is the sole heir of my father’s estate; and there will be no creditors of note (the estate will be solvent). When precisely is it possible to pay creditors? Only after the L&D account is drawn up?

    Is it possible to pay creditors in advance of this and for her to claim back in the L&D account?

    • admin says:

      Giselle, payments should only be made once the Master of the High Court gives approval to proceed, not before.

  32. Matshepo says:

    My mother (currently unemployed) is a sole beneficiary of a deceased estate (House and car) which can cost R500,000.00. The excecutor was appointed as per a will. I want to know who is going to pay for the executor to do all transferes and will they sell a house to reclaim all their money back, if so can we ask to not have executors because she cannot afford to loose the house as it is the only place where she is living.
    The Deceased did not have lots of debt they might be -+ R10,000.00. Is it possible to do all the necessary documentation on ourselves. The deceased was not married, never had children as so on.
    And how is the process going to be with out executors. Is in their power to force her to sell the house so that they can reclaim their money back. Since then they have never contacted her to make any arrangement in terms of estate distribution or anything. How should we go about it.

    • admin says:

      Hi Matshepo. Unfortunately if an executor was named in the will and this executor is willing to do the job, then you cannot have them removed unless you can prove their incompetence. If the estate account, into which all funds relating to the estate must be transferred, does not have enough funds to cover all expenses owed by the estate, then yes the executor may sell assets in order to raise the necessary funds. This is very sad when it relates to a property in which an heir lives unfortunately. If the heir is able to raise funds to cover all the estate’s expenses and deposit this into the estate account, then selling the property should not be necessary. You really need to negotiate with the executor to come to the best solution for everyone involved.

  33. Royce says:

    I would like tto know that if I was nominated to be an executor and have a letter of authority forn the master of the high court, how would I transfere the assets of my late step father from his name to mine, particulalry shares from a copmpany he used to work for.

    • admin says:

      Royce, you can’t do any transferring of assets to yourself (or other heirs) until the Master of the High Court approves the distribution of the assets. Depending on the size of the estate, you have to follow the entire process of winding up the estate according to the law (we describe this process in our guide), and once all the steps are complete and the Master approves the Liquidation and Distribution account, only then can you distribute the assets.

  34. panos says:

    I’m heir of an Estate in Johannesburg and the executor of the Estate refuse to lodge the L & D account to the Master despite the date line that the Master gave to him.
    What can I do in order to resolve the problem and remove the executor from his duties.

  35. J Sharp says:

    My Dad passed away 2 weeks ago leaving his estate to my siblings and his wife . I was appointed executor in his will . How do I find out if and where any insurance policies may be as he did inform me he had some but I cannot find them ? May I be the executor of the estate as I have been told by a legal advisor that as the value is more than R125000-00 someone with a legal qualification has to do it ? Thank you

    • admin says:

      Firstly condolences for your loss. Secondly, you are definitely entitled to be the executor – you don’t need any legal qualifications or skills to be one! All you need is to know what the steps are and to do them in order and do them properly, correctly and neatly (so the Master accepts them). As for the insurance policies, you will unfortunately need to dig around in all his documents to try and find any correspondence between your dad and any insurance companies. If you can’t find any, then I’d suggest writing to the major companies using his ID and name asking them to check for any possible policies. All the best!

  36. Daniel says:

    Hi there, is it possible for legatees (not the heirs) to be paid out before an Estate is wound up (assuming there are no creditors)?
    Thank you

    • admin says:

      Daniel, no payouts are supposed to happen until the Master approves the L&D account and gives the go-ahead to distribute the assets according to the will.

  37. Mary ann says:

    We are married in COP, and have a joint will where the entire estate is left to the surviving spouse, who will also be the executor. Our total assets which is our home, car and shares is currently estimated at approximately R3.mill. and an annuity of R1.6m currently paying us a monthly pension which does not form part of the estate. My, question is should the attorney who currently have our original will charge us 4% excecutors fees it would amount to approx R120,000., to wind up the estate. To me this estate seems quite straight forward, is it wise to get your book to attempt a DIY?? or should this rather be left to the professionals.

    • admin says:

      I would most certainly advise you to administer the estate yourself as from what you describe it is straightforward. It’s simply a set of steps to follow at the right times, producing the correct documentation to the Master’s Office. And you save yourself a large sum of money!

  38. Sipho says:

    Hi there, please advise on the following:

    1. What options do I have if I feel that the executor is delaying the administration process unnecessarily;
    2. Does the fee (3.5% of the value of the estate) that the executor gets include the interest accumulated on the estate late account; and
    3. The executor said the administration costs (i.e. publication of the estate in the local newspaper) will be additional costs to the 3.5% they are entitled to by law. is this correct?

  39. panos says:

    I have a serious problem with an exeutor in Johannesburg that he refuses to lodge the L & D account to the High court of South Africa in Pretoria. The Master intends to remove him from his duties. I have reasonable evidences that the exeutor had made damage to the estate. How can I protect the estate from possible more damage in the estate in the time period until the Master will remove him (e.g. How can I protect the estate account funds)

  40. panos says:

    I’m trying to find an answer of how to protect my rights against an executor that he obviously making damage to an estate and he don’t obey to the Master orders. Is the notice of motion is the proper legal way ?

  41. amanda says:

    Hi, I was appointed executor of my grandmothers estate and did manage to get the appointment from the Master of the High Court. According to my grandmothers will, each of the grandchildren get R2000.00 and the remaining cash , about R500 000 ,(all the money is in cash now) will go to my aunt. However, my aunt wants half of the money to go to my fathers side of the family and she gets the other half. How do we do that? My aunt lives in America but her funds will be invested in RSA. Hope you can help?

    • admin says:

      We normally suggest let the estate pay out according to the will, and then the heirs can then distribute further as they wish. So let the amount due to your aunt be paid into her account, and she then gives what she wants to whom she wants. This way there is no hassle with the Master’s Office and the winding up of the estate.

  42. Anne says:

    Can u please tell me how long I have to place an advertisement in the Government Gazette & how to word it & can I do it on line or where do I go?

    • admin says:

      Anne, you can’t do it online. There is a form you need to fill in and send it to the Government Printers (look under Home Affairs in the blue pages of your telephone directory). There are 2 ads you need to place – one to advertise for creditors, and then the final one to advertise the L&D account. Both times you have to advertise in the local newspapers at the same time too. If you need more details it would be better to get our guide which details all the steps you need to take, with all the necessary forms you need to fill in too.

  43. Marc says:


    My mom has passed away and I am the executor of her will. She left a will bequeathing everything to her 5 children. Her assets over the years have dwindled and most have ended up as part of my sisters assets, who has looked after her for the past 11 years. I feel sure that the remaining 4 siblings will want to forego any claim they may have to a portion of the estate and leave it all to our sister who needs it more than the rest of us. Any advice on how to formalise this would be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards

    • admin says:

      Hi Mark, where heirs want to forego their share of the assets in favour of another heir, we normally advise the heirs to sort it out amongst themselves once the distribution of assets has been approved by the Master as this is the simplest way to do it. In cases we have dealt with this has been the Master’s advice too.

  44. admin says:

    Hi James, I see I never replied to you and I apologize for that. Did the attorneys help you? You are entitled to a copy of the will, so I would ask for that first of all if I were you. If you still require information please let me know.

  45. admin says:

    Gerrie, did you work things out with ABSA or did you have to pay the R11 000?

  46. Clive says:

    Hi there
    What happens if in the will there was a property mentioned but that property has already been sold and money exchanged but when a deeds search is done, the property still comes up in my mom’s name as the owner of the property after more than a year ?
    How is this dealt with

    • admin says:

      Clive, it sounds to me like the property was never transferred to the new owner, so you need to deal with the conveyancing attorneys who were meant to do this.

  47. Andrea says:

    Hi, my father passed away and I’m now the executor of his estate. I have since discovered that the original will is lost and all we have are a few certified copies. The Master would however not accept this and has sent a letter sayint that it is invalid. I would like to know how we should proceed? Apparently some sort of application?

    • admin says:

      Hi Andrea, since there is no valid will I can’t see how you can be the executor? Without a will the Master appoints an executor, unless all the heirs agree on someone whom they would like to be the executor, write letters to this effect and then the appointed person applies to the High Court for the position. The estate however will wound up according to the law of succession for an intestate estate.

  48. Tito says:

    I posted a question early January 2013 and it was never answered, instead it has been removed

    • admin says:

      Hi Tito
      We reply to most queries posted here directly, which is what happened in your case. Please check the email address you gave for our answer dated 12-01-2013 that it didn’t end up in your junk folder! I also responded via email directly to you on this comment so there should be 2 emails for you. If you have another query you are welcome to contact us.

  49. Katelyn says:

    Thanks for your time. Please can you confirm which amounts fall into the 3.5% administrator’s fee for executors of estates? Is the value of the deceased property included or excluded for the purpose of calculating the fee? The deceased property is divided amongst a number of beneficiaries. When it comes to payment of executors fees we have been advised by an attorney that the executors fees must be paid out of the portion of the property that is bequeathed to the two beneficiaries who are also executors and not out of the property as a whole. Is it possible to clarify the situation?

    • admin says:

      Hi Katelyn
      The maximum executor’s fees allowed are 3.5% + VAT (so approx 4%) of the gross value of the estate, so it means everything that is listed in the inventory as assets belonging to the estate of the deceased. If the property is in the name of the deceased only (not jointly with someone else), then the entire value of the property forms part of the estate. If there is more than 1 executor, then the executor’s fees should be divided equally between the executors (unless they come to an agreement otherwise between themselves). Executor fees are negotiable so if, as in your case, the executors are also the beneficiaries, then you can also charge less or nothing, since you are inheriting it anyway. I hope that helps!

  50. Elaine says:

    My husband died 2010 intestate. No fixed assets, no cars etc. We were sequestrated in 2009, amount outstanding was R16,000.00 payable. He had x 3 guns on his name the one I have never seen, one that had only the barrel left and then the 9mm (which he used to commit suicide). I was appointed only in Feb 2013 as executor by the Court (with help by a attorney) . His one Sister phone me (after 3 years) and requested that I must hand over the 9mm due to the fact it was her fathers 9mm previously, however the 9mm was also registered in my husband name.
    My question is now what must happen now, please assist.

  51. Ramina N says:

    Hi, I am executor for my dads estate which only has a property valued R249 000. I appointed a family attorney to assist. His fees were never discussed even though I asked several times. He sent me a letter of demand claiming 3,5% of the property. I sent him several letters asking him to contact me to discuss which he ignored. I now get a summons. So anoyed!