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An Executor is a person appointed to take control, divide and distribute a deceased person’s estate. The nomination of an Executor is of utmost importance as it will provide you with peace of mind that your affairs will be dealt with according to your wishes upon your passing by a person you trust.

An important question arises when preparing your Will “

“Who do you nominate as your Executor?”

One doesn’t always give much thought to this question and on most occasions a family member is nominated. Although our law permits you to nominate a friend or a family member as Executor, it is ultimately the Master of the High Court who confirms the appointment.

If however your estate is valued at over R250 000,00 and the person you nominated as Executor is not a professional, ie an attorney, accountant or trust company) the Master will direct that an attorney be appointed to attend to the administration process . Accordingly, the person entrusted with your affairs will have to at that stage instruct an attorney to attend to the administration process.

Before nominating your favourite family member or best friend to be the executor of your estate, give careful consideration to the consequences of such appointment. The Role of an executor is to step into your shoes after your death and ensure that your assets are distributed in the best interest of your estate and those you love.

You may therefore want to nominate a family member or a friend as well as an Attorney as Executors of your Estate. This will not only prevent delays in the reporting of your Estate to the Master of the High Court but will more importantly give you and your family peace of mind knowing that you have entrusted your affairs to be dealt with by someone you are familiar and comfortable with and who has the necessary knowledge and expertise.

Attributes a person should have

1. Trustworthiness: An executor should be honest, dependable, and have a proven track record of integrity. Since they’ll have access to your assets and be responsible for carrying out your wishes, trustworthiness is paramount.

2. Availability: The chosen executor must have the time and availability to handle their responsibilities. This includes communicating with lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, as well as interacting with the Master of the High Court if necessary.

3. Financial Knowledge: Your executor will manage assets, pay debts, and handle tax matters. It’s essential to choose someone with financial knowledge or someone willing to work with professionals in these areas.

4. Communication Skills: Executors need to explain the terms of your will to beneficiaries and address any questions. They may also need to communicate with creditors or other parties with an interest in your estate.

How many Executors can I nominate

You can appoint more than one person to simultaneously act as executors. The Master however will only appoint four executors at a time. Nominating three or four people as executors of your estate comes with its own set of challenges, so think carefully before appointing more than two persons. This can slow matters down slightly as they will need to make decisions together. If one of the nominated executors is set to benefit from your estate, this could cause the other executors to feel that a conflict of interest exists. It is also necessary to consider whether any tensions are likely to arise between the multiple personalities, bearing in mind that they may all have different views and interpretations of your wishes.

It is however important to nominate a person in the alternative in case your nominated executor is not able to take up the appointment. For example if the person you nominated declines the appointment your family will be left with the burden of nominating someone else.

Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor

The duties and responsibilities of an executor are crucial in managing a deceased person’s estate.

1. Consultation and gathering information. The executor meets with the family to collect relevant information and documents, such as the Last Will and Testamennt, Death certificate, Identity documents , Marriage Certificate, and a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities.

2. Reporting to the Master of the High Court. The executor, (alternatively the appointed agent) will complete all the necessary forms and attend to signature thereof and lodge with the Master of the High Court in the area where the deceased resided.

3. Advertisements – upon receipt of the Letter of Executorship from the Masters offices, the executor must advertise in the local newspaper and government gazette, a notice to creditors (those to whom the deceased owed money) of the death and requests them to submit their claims against the estate within a specified period.

4. Banks and other institutions. The executor must write to the banks to close off all bank accounts with instructions to pay funds into an Estate bank account. The executor will address letters to share holding companies, if any, etc

5. Assess Assets and Liabilities: The executor determines if there are sufficient assets to cover the liabilities. The executor determines if the estate is solvent or insolvent.

6. Drafting Accounts: The executor prepares accounts detailing the assets, liabilities, and how the estate will be distributed among heirs. The account is sent to the Master of the High Court for approval.

7. Taxes It is the responsibility of the executor to ensure that the taxes of the deceased are up to date and the Rev 267 form is lodged with SARS together with the Liquidation and Distribution account.

8. Approval and Distribution: Once the account is approved by the Master of the High Court, the executor must advertise the account in the local newspaper and the government gazette. A copy of the account must also be lodged with the local Magistrates Court in the area in which the deceased resided to lie for inspection for a period of 21 days. Should there be no objections. the executor pays creditors and distributes the estate to beneficiaries according to the will or intestate laws.

9. Legal action. An executor may also be required to institute legal action to recover funds due to the estate alternatively may also have to defend claims instituted against the estate.

The role of an Executor is an important job that requires a unique combination of skills to ensure that the estate is administered efficiently, effectively and timeously.

Note that being an executor is a significant responsibility, it is best to seek the assistance and advice of an Attorney who has the necessary expertise and experience.


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