Although we don’t know the ‘when’ and the ‘how’, death is a certain future event that nobody can escape, yet despite this fact many people are uncertain about what needs to be done when a friend or loved one dies.The deceased’s body needs to be moved to a mortuary and a Death Notice needs to be issued by the doctor/pathologist. This form certifies the cause, date, time and place of death.
When a person dies, the first priority is usually to arrange a funeral. If the deceased took out funeral cover during his lifetime, it is advisable to immediately start with the process by submitting the application forms to the funeral director/undertaker to verify the funeral policy details and arrange funds to cover the funeral expenses.
There is no law that requires a person to have a funeral service. It has however become a custom to have a ceremony to remember or celebrate the life that has now passed.
Some people choose to be buried whilst others prefer being cremated and people often indicate in a Will what type of funeral they prefer.
The knowledge and expertise of a funeral director/undertaker is recommended because they will be able to assist you in obtaining: the death notice; registering the death at Home Affairs and collecting the death certificate; preparing and dressing the deceased for the viewing or cremation; making a booking at the cemetery or crematorium; transporting the deceased etc.
If the deceased had no policy and you or the family members are not in a financial position to pay for the funeral, you can ask the funeral parlour to submit an invoice to the Executor of the estate for payment out of the funds in the estate. However, not many funeral parlours agree because some estates take long to wind up and the prospect that the estate could be insolvent.
REPORTING THE ESTATE
The next step after the funeral would be to find out if the deceased left a Will. A Will would be a written document made by the deceased and an indication by the deceased how his estate must be distributed after his death and who will inherit the assets after death.
The Will would usually be stored where the deceased kept his or her security documents, or kept it in safe custody with an attorney, bank or financial advisor. As soon as the Will is located, establish who has been appointed as executor in the Will. If it is a professional company like a bank, firm of attorneys or financial advisor, set up an appointment to meet with the nominated executor and then bring along all the documents that you can find that belonged to the deceased, in particular, the identity document of the deceased, death certificate, policy documents, bank statements, investment documents, share certificates and accounts found.
If you find more than one will, do not destroy the older versions, but hand over all to the master as the Master has the final say which will is valid or not. Usually the latest will revokes all previous wills, but it is up to the Master to make the decision.
The Administration of Estates Act 66/1965 describes the procedure to be followed in the administration of deceased estates. The documents to be submitted will depend on the value of the estate and the type of appointment.
The estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court within a period of 14 days after the death. The Master requires the following documents to report the estate:
You can download these forms from the website of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on www.justice.gov.za/master/forms. Submit the forms by post or hand deliver it at the Masters Office, as these forms may not be faxed.
It is best advised that all documents be submitted in one pack to the Master as recently a new paperless and scanning system was introduced by the Master, which means that a full set of documents to report the estate can be processed much faster than documents submitted ‘bit-by bit”/ piecemeal.
Once the Master issues the formal Letters of Executorship, the appointed Executor can start with the task to wind up the estate and prepare an account, called the Liquidation and Distribution Account and file this account with the Master to set out the assets and liabilities of the deceased and the actual distribution of the estate of the deceased.
Since 5 December 2002, all magistrate’s courts are service points for the master where all estates with a value less than R50 000 can be reported. These services points have limited jurisdiction in respect of estates where: the deceased died intestate, and, the value of the estate doesn’t exceed R50 000, and the estate is not insolvent, and all the beneficiaries are majors or where there are beneficiaries that are minors, they are assisted by a legal guardian and the cash assets in the estate does not exceed R20 000.
In terms of s18 (3) as amended, if the value of an estate is less than R250 000, the Master of the High Court where the estate is reported shall issue directions as to the manner in which the estate ought to be dealt with.
On 24 November 2014, a notice was published in the Government Gazette which amended the value of estates to be dealt with in terms of section 18(3) and increased the amount from R150 000 to R250 000.
This amendment results in a lot of savings as these estates below R250 000 will no longer be considered full estates that require advertisements, drafting of the liquidation and distribution account etc. It is a much shorter and less formal way of winding up the estate and the Master will then issue Letters of Authority and appoint a representative, rather than an Executor to finalise the estate.
Where the value of the estate is more than R250 000, the Master will issue Letters of Executorship and the full process in terms of the Administration of Estates Act must be followed.
The letters of authority issued to the masters representative in terms of s18 (3), doesn’t authorize him/her to sell the immoveable property in the estate. If the representative needs to sell immoveable property, the master must give a further direction authorising the sale. However, if the purchase price including the value of the other assets, doesn’t exceed R250 000, the master may authorize the sale in terms of s18 (3) as part of his directions. If the immoveable property is being transferred to an heir, and not out of the estate, the s18 (3) endorsement will not be required.
TIP – notify your loved ones in advance where you keep your Will and update your will regularly.
Useful information Master of the High Court http://www.justice.gov.za/master/m_main.htm
Law Society: http://www.lssa.org.za/
Issued by: Oosthuizen & CO Meyer De Waal Attorneys – Prepared by Jaamonique Phillips and Meyer de Waal
For more information, contact:
Meyer De Waal on 021 461 0065
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)