When drafting your Last Will and Testament you will have to decide who to nominate as executor of your estate.
Your executor’s responsibilities
It is your executor’s responsibility to wind up your estate which includes reporting the estate to the Master of the High Court, obtaining letters of executorship, closing your bank accounts, paying creditors, collecting all money owed to the estate, paying outstanding income tax and estate duty to the South African Revenue Service as well as drafting the Liquidation and Distribution account and attending to the necessary advertising in the Government Gazette and regional newspaper.
A testator can nominate a family member or friend as executor, alternatively a professional can be nominated, for example an attorney, accountant, bank or trust company.
It is advisable to appoint an alternative executor as your nominated executor may be unwilling or unable to accept the nomination of executor of your estate at the time of your death.
Appointing a professional agent
It is important to note that in the event that a person appoints a layperson as an executor in his Will, the Master of the High Court usually insists that the executor appoints a professional agent to act on his behalf. In this instance the executor can still be involved with the administration of the estate and can still make decisions and instruct the agent as he sees fit. The executor can also cancel the mandate with the agent if he feels that the agent is not fulfilling his responsibilities.
When appointing an agent it is important to ensure that the agent is a specialist in the administration of deceased estates.
One executor versus joint executors
Having more than one executor can complicate matters and slow down the administration of the estate without having any actual benefit. It is not advisable to appoint more than one executor in your Will however some people are more comfortable with nominating joint executors in order to have a trusted friend or relative oversee the process as well as a professional who has experience with winding up estates.
It is also not advisable to appoint a party residing outside of South Africa as your executor. Apart from the obvious impracticalities of the non-resident executor having to attend to matters in South Africa, the Master of the High Court will in most cases require a non-resident executor to provide security for the value of the estate before the executor’s appointment is confirmed. The security must be in the form of a Bond of Security, issued by a short-term insurance company. The estate will also incur extra unnecessary costs if being wound up from overseas such as notarising of foreign documents and courier fees.
The importance of reviewing your Will
After drafting their Will, many people don’t think of it again however it is important that you review your Will every few years, particularly after a life changing event such as the death of a family member, birth of a child, marriage or divorce and at this time you should consider whether your nominated executor is still the right choice for you.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)