Basic Estates Concepts Explained

Basic Estates Concepts Explained

A brief explanation of important estate concepts, which will be helpful when deciphering a will, as well the necessary documents needed to report a deceased estate to the Master of the High Court. Testate Succession Intestate Succession

Author: Zoe Dickenson

Death is an inevitable part of life. At some point in our lives, we will all be faced with the death of a loved one. The winding-up of a deceased estate is often a long and tedious process with many legal and administrative implications. Where a deceased person has left no form of estate planning in place, we often find that their families are left overwhelmed, stressed and resort to fighting among each other. Below sets out a brief explanation of important estate concepts, which will be helpful when deciphering a will, as well the necessary documents needed to report a deceased estate to the Master of the High Court.

Testate Succession

This is where a deceased person dies leaving behind a valid will. The deceased person is referred to as a Testator, and the deceased’s estate will devolve according to the clauses of the will, subject to certain legal requirements.

Intestate Succession

Where a Deceased person dies leaving behind no will. The estate of the deceased is devolved according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987. In terms of Intestate Succession, assets are devolved upon the spouse and/ or descendants of the Deceased. 

Where deceased estates have a gross value not exceeding R250 000.00

These types of estates are administered in terms of section 18 (3) of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965, and is referred to as a ‘section 18(3) estate’. These types of estates are generally less complex and a lot cheaper to administer. The Master of the High Court issues Letters of Authority in these types of estates, after which the file is closed. A Letter of Authority enables an appointed Master’s Representative to settle all affairs in a deceased estate.

Where deceased estates have a gross value exceeding R250 000.00

In terms of these estates, the Master of the High Court will issue a Letter of Executorship, authorizing an Executor to act on behalf of the estate, and settle all affairs of the estate. These types of estates are a lot more time consuming and expensive to administer. Once the Letter of Executorship is issued, advertisements in terms of section 29 need to be placed in order to notify any creditors of the estate. This is placed simultaneously in both the Government Gazette as well as in a local newspaper. Once completed, a Liquidation and Distribution Account would then need to be drawn up. The Liquidation and Distribution Account reflects all assets and liabilities of the estate. This Account will then need to be approved by the Master, after which it will have to lay open for 21 days for inspection and would have to be advertised in terms of section 35. Thereafter the Executor can begin distributing assets to the beneficiaries.   

Documents needed to report an estate:

  • Death Notice (Form J294);
  • Undertaking and  Acceptance of Master’s Directions (Form J155, used if Estate is valued under R250 000.00);
  • Acceptance of Trust as Executor (Form J190, used if Estate is valued over R250 000.00);
  • Next of Kin Affidavit (Form J192, used if there is no valid Will);
  • Nomination to act as Executor or Master’s Representative Form (Used where no Executor/Master’s representative was appointed by the Deceased);
  • Inventory (Form J243);
  • Certified copy of Deceased’s Identity Document;
  • Certified copy of Death Certificate;
  • Certified copy of Deceased’s Marriage Certificate or Divorce order (if applicable);
  • Certified copy of Birth Certificates of all the Deceased’s minor children;
  • Certified copy of Executor/Executrix Identity Document; and
  • Original Will and all codicils (if applicable)

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