What is a Deceased Estate?

When someone dies the assets they leave behind in a will comprise their estate. A so-called deceased estate sorts out who gets what.

A simple will with not many assets is easy to conclude. However, if according to the will there is no executor, the Master of the High Court appoints a professional. That is specially if the estate is large with complex business interests.

  1. As required by law, the executor attends to the winding up of the deceased estate
  2. The estate administration process is no mean feat as the executor must validate all beneficiaries, creditors and debtors
  3. The way one is married influences the calculations of a deceased estate.


Seeing that the Assets of a Deceased Estate Reach the Rightful Beneficiaries

Asset distribution depends on whether the deceased person actually had a will. It is the role of the executor to see that the balance of the assets reaches the right beneficiaries. The deceased estate includes all fixed property, movable property, investments such as stocks and shares, loan accounts, cash in the bank and even unpaid salaries.

If the deceased didn’t have a will, it means the deceased died intestate. Where the deceased left a valid will, the rules of testate succession apply.

Deceased Estate Wills Attorneys and Funeral CoverThe assets of the deceased are then distributed in accordance with what the will said.

The process of handling a deceased estate is always very technical because each family or individual’s assets and their wishes are different.  This is why the estate administration process requires professional expertise.

A Family Member can be the Executor

An executor is the person that you nominate to conduct the directives set out in your will. It is the executor’s responsibility to disburse the estate to the correct beneficiaries.

They need to get information on potential heirs, they will be managing payments, dealing with claims from creditors and calculating and paying estate tax and ensuring that the correct documentation lands up with the correct authorities.

Any person is free to make a will so as to determine the management of their estate on their death. In South Africa you’ve also got total freedom as to whom you want to leave your assets to.

You can imagine that when someone dies, all the details of their estate will need proper handling so that the family can peacefully close a chapter in their lives. The correct administration process will ensure the smooth execution of all the terms of the Will.

When Legal Knowledge is Limited

There are some people who try to save a buck or two by naming a family member to act as executor, the person who will represent the estate,  little realising that this could actually have negative financial implications.

Yes a family member may have more in-depth knowledge of the estate and your affairs and they’re not likely to add on heavy fees, but their legal knowledge might be limited.

When you die, there will be a host of documents your family members acting as executor will need to access. Some of these are –

  • the Will
  • bank account details
  • investments
  • proof of ownership of assets
  • marriage certificate
  • life insurance policies
  • funeral policies
  • details of liabilities


Family members who have been appointed as executors may well find themselves out of their depth, and in the end you may well end up finally having to hire an expert executor.

Asset Distribution

If you want to leave an investment to certain members of your family, you won’t see your wishes granted unless you have a  proper estate management plan in place. The purpose of a deceased estate management plan is to ensure your carefully selected beneficiaries are well provided for.

If you can’t be sure that your assets will be well distributed as you want, selecting the choosing the right executor will be an important decision for you to make as this will ensure your estate is wound up quickly just like you wanted.


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All info was correct at time of publishing