The administration of deceased estates by attorneys in South Africa involves a complex legal process that aims to ensure the orderly distribution of a deceased person's assets and the settling of their debts and liabilities. Here's an overview of the various aspects involved in the administration of deceased estates by attorneys:
Notification and Reporting: When someone passes away, the first step is for the family or executor named in the will to notify the Master of the High Court within 14 days of the death. The Master's Office oversees the administration of deceased estates. The attorney will assist in gathering all necessary information and documents for the initial notification and reporting.
Appointing an Executor: If the deceased left a valid will, it will typically name an executor responsible for administering the estate. If there is no will, the Master will appoint an executor. The attorney may assist in applying for the appointment of an executor, whether named in the will or appointed by the Master.
Gathering Information and Assets: The attorney will work with the executor to compile a comprehensive inventory of the deceased's assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, personal belongings, and any debts owed to the estate.
Valuation of Assets and Liabilities: The assets of the estate need to be valued accurately, and liabilities such as debts, taxes, and funeral expenses must be identified. The attorney may work with professionals such as valuers and accountants to ensure accurate valuations.
Drafting Legal Documents: The attorney will draft legal documents, including an inventory of assets and liabilities, a liquidation and distribution account, and affidavits required for the Master's approval.
Notifying Creditors and Settling Debts: Creditors of the deceased must be notified, and their claims against the estate must be settled. The attorney will handle this process, negotiating with creditors and ensuring that valid claims are paid out of the estate's assets.
Taxation: The attorney will work with tax professionals to determine and settle any taxes owed by the estate, including income tax and estate duty.
Liquidation and Distribution Account: This account provides a detailed breakdown of the assets, liabilities, and distribution plan for the estate. The attorney will draft and submit this account to the Master for approval.
Master's Approval and Distribution: Once the Master approves the liquidation and distribution account, the attorney, along with the executor, will proceed to distribute the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries according to the will or intestate succession laws.
Finalizing the Estate: After the distribution, the attorney will finalize the estate's affairs, including closing bank accounts, transferring property titles, and obtaining the necessary clearances.
Reporting and Compliance: The attorney is responsible for keeping accurate records of the administration process and providing reports to the Master's Office as required by law.
Resolving Disputes: If any disputes arise among heirs or creditors, the attorney may assist in resolving these conflicts through negotiation or legal proceedings.
The administration of deceased estates is a meticulous and legalistic process in South Africa. Attorneys play a crucial role in guiding executors and beneficiaries through the complex legal requirements to ensure a smooth and legally compliant estate administration process.