Most of us cannot bear the thought of death, especially that of a loved one.

The role of an executor is often misunderstood, largely by the family members that are left to pick up the pieces after the unfortunate death of a loved one.

During your lifetime, you will acquire assets and build up liabilities which will eventually form part of your estate. When you pass away, an Executor would need to be appointed by the Master of the High Court, to essentially wind up your estate; and distribute your assets in accordance with your wishes (often stipulated in a Will).

When drafting a Will, it is critically important to name/nominate an Executor, as he will be responsible for the administration of your estate and will act on you behalf. You may nominate more than one Executor, for example, nominate Company ABC and your daughter Jane Doe to act as co-executors.

The origin of a deceased estate

In summary, a deceased estate comes into existence when a person passes away leaving property or a document which is a Will. Such estate must then be administered and distributed in terms of the deceased’s Will or failing a valid will, in terms of the Intestate Succession Act. The procedure which must be followed to administer a deceased estate is prescribed by the Administration of Estates Act.

When and by whom must estates be reported?

  • The estate of a deceased person must be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days of the date of death.
  • The death is to be reported by any person having control or possession of any property or documents that is or intends to be a Will of the deceased.
  • The estate is reported by lodging a completed documentation with the Master which may be obtained from any Office of the Master of the High Court.


As stated above, an Executor is nominated in a Will, and thereafter appointed by the Master of the High Court once the necessary formalities have been met.

Duties of an Executor include, but not limited to:

  • Locating and identifying property and assets belonging to the deceased.
  • Assisting the family with the disposal of your remains.
  • Obtaining a letter from your doctor confirming that the deceased has died.
  • From the proceeds of your estate, it is the Executor’s duty to pay for:
    • Funeral expenses
    • The testamentary legal expenses
    • Any other statutory obligations such as taxation
    • All other debts such as that from banks

The Executor basically acts on your behalf, and therefore it is important to nominate someone you know and trust, or a professional.

I hope the above has provided some insights into the role of the Executor.



The article is provided for general information purposes only. Whilst care has been taken to ensure accuracy, the content provided is not intended to stand alone as financial advice. An expert should be consulted for advice based on the facts and circumstances of each transaction/case.

The contributor (Kim Nokwaza) shall not be liable for any loss or damages suffered by anyone who relies on or acts upon the information contained in this piece

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