Let’s start by explaining the meaning of the term “Executor”. In the legal sense, it refers to the person or company who you nominate in your Last Will and Testament to carry out your wishes as set out in your Will. The executor’s duties are set out in detail in the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965.
It is the executor’s responsibility to file an inventory with the Master of the High Court and to follow the subsequent processes as set out in law to the final instruction from the Master to pay the heirs.
All assets belonging to you on your death must be identified and collected, wherever the assets may be situated, and any creditors’ claims assessed and debtors collected. Thereafter, your executor, on instruction from the Master, will distribute your assets to your beneficiaries in terms of your instructions in the Will.
In addition, your executor must calculate estate duty and pay any income tax due, whilst ensuring that all the correct documentation is filed with the relevant authorities. This process can be long and tedious as your executor needs to engage with various government departments.
In essence, the executor is the person that represents your estate and attends to its winding up. In a number of cases a friend, family member or spouse is nominated to act as executor as they may have intimate knowledge of your estate and affairs, in an attempt to reduce the executor’s fees levied.
The reality is that executor’s fees are not entirely escapable. Family members appointed as executors often find themselves either out of their depth or that managing the winding up of the estate is too time-consuming, in amongst the other day-to-day responsibilities they may have. The family member lands up appointing a professional executor, but may then have to pay more for these services.
When appointing an executor to handle your Last Will and Testament, you need to give very careful consideration to the above.
If you need any advice on the structure or drafting of your Will, please contact one of our experienced advisors.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as 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 financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)
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