When a relative or someone close to you dies, there are a number of steps you must follow
- Get a death certificate. A document stating the person has died is completed by the undertaker, funeral parlour or doctor. This is taken to the Department of Home Affairs, which issues a death certificate.
- The deceased estate must be reported to the Master’s Office. This is usually done by a person who has an interest in the estate, such as a beneficiary. The beneficiary appoints someone such as an attorney, accountant or financial advisor to prepare the documents required by the Master to lodge the estate.
- There is one set of documents if there is a will, another set if there is no will.
- There is one set of documents if the estate is worth more than R250 000, another set if the estate is worth less than R250 000.
- If an executor is nominated in the will, the Master will usually appoint that person (or institution) and issue a letter of executorship to that person.
- If no executor is nominated in the will or there is no will, the Master will appoint an appropriate person as executor. In such a case, the Master may consult a surviving spouse or other beneficiaries before making the appointment.
- If the estate is worth less than R250 000, a letter of authority will be issued by the Master, usually to a family member, to pay the debts and distribute the assets. The person appointed is not an executor and does not have to lodge formal estate accounts.
- The executor must keep in contact with the Master and must lodge the estate accounts (the so-called liquidation and distribution accounts) within six months of being appointed.
- If there is no will, a next-of-kin affidavit must be lodged with the Master; if there is no spouse or children, the executor must look for other beneficiaries. This means that, in the absence of a will, even a distant family member may inherit.
- The executor must lodge the final documents with the Master after the estate’s creditors have been paid, the inheritances distributed to the heirs, and the estate bank statement is at nil.
What an executor or financial planner can do
- Timeously notify credit bureaus and financial institutions that the client is deceased;
- Have a list of all assets belonging to the deceased client;
- Obtain from a family member or surviving spouse access to and custody of all important documents, including identity documents, birth certificates and passports, and that these documents are secure;
- Ensure the deceased’s social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are closed; and
- Ensure emails sent with important documents attached, such as tax returns, are secure.
Source: The Independent on Saturday (March 26, 2016)