Where to start?

When a person dies leaving assets , liabilities or a will, the surviving spouse (or in the event that there is no surviving spouse, then the nearest relative) must within 14 days from the date of death, report the estate in the prescribed manner to the Master of the High Court in that Province.

Then what?

After the estate has been reported, the Master appoints an Executor. The executor will be issued with a Letter of Executorship (if the deceased’s assets have a gross value of more than R125 000) or a Letter of Authority (if the deceased’s assets have a gross value of less than R125 000).

The Executor is permitted to obtain the services of an attorney to assist in the winding up of the deceased estate, who can assist in the process.

Who can be appointed as an Executor?

It is advisable that you appoint your attorney as Executor as they will

– be familiar the contents of your will and will in all likelihood hold the original;

– have general information of your family affairs;

– be able to speed up the process of winding up the estate;

– has the expertise to deal with such matters;

What does the Executor do?

The Executor is required to collect the deceased’s assets and settle any outstanding liabilities or debts. Thereafter, the Executor must pay out any legacies and distribute the remainder of the estate to the heirs in accordance with the directives of the will or in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act (in the event of their not being a valid will)

When is estate duty payable?

Estate duty is payable to the South African Revenue Service. The amount of Estate Duty is charged on the taxable amount of the estate at a rate of 20%. The taxable amount is calculated by deducting a R3.5 million from the nett value of the estate.

The value of all property included in the deceased’s estate which accrues to the surviving spouse, either in terms of the deceased’s will or by intestate succession, can be deducted to the extent that it has been included in property.

Whilst this article gives a general impression of the process of winding up a deceased estate – as with most legal matters complexities do arise more often than not. As such, we suggest that you consult an attorney with regard to estate planning.

About the authorAndrea Goldman is a Partner at Goldman Schultz Attorneys. For more information contact or