Family Law > Death > Winding Up a Dead Person’s Estate
Winding Up a Dead Person’s Estate
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Winding Up a Dead Person’s Estate

A member of the dead person’s family or a close friend must report the death to the Master of the High Court within 14 days if the deceased person had any property or left a will. If they do not do this, it is a criminal offence. They must get a form called a Death Notice from the Master’s office and fill it in. Anyone who has a copy of the will must also send it to the Master of the High Court.

The dead person’s husband or wife, or nearest relative or close friend must also send an inventory form to the Master within 14 days of the death. This is a list of all the property that belonged to the dead person.

All this property is called the estate. The estate has assets and liabilities. Assets are all the things the person owned. Liabilities are the person’s debts.

The dead person’s estate does not go straight to the heirs. It first goes to the executor.

The executor must draw up an account, adding up all the person’s assets. Then the executor subtracts all the debts from this amount. The executor must pay any income tax the dead person owed, and also pay the ‘death duties’ tax on the estate. The executor sends the account to the heirs and to the Master of the High Court. When the Master is satisfied, and the debts are all paid, the rest of the property goes to the heirs.

If things are complicated, for example if the estate cannot pay all the debts, the executor should consult an attorney to help.

If the dead person’s property is worth less than R125 000, the Master may say an executor is not necessary. The Master then gives directions as to how the estate is to be dealt with and usually gives the dead person’s husband or wife permission to keep all the dead person’s property unless they leave a will giving it to someone else.

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