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The question most people ask, when it comes to the administration of an estate of a loved one, is when will the estate come to a point where I can expect my inheritance? 

Unfortunately, there are many aspects to consider and procedures to be followed when an estate is being administered and the answer to the question is dependent on various factors and procedures.   

The first most important step is to report the Estate to the Master of the High Court and to obtain an appointment as Executor of the Estate.  This appointment authorises that person to act on behalf of the estate and is usually done by virtue of a will or in terms of the Intestate Succession Act (if there is no will).

The administration of the estate is the full responsibility of the executor and he/she is legally liable to the Master and all interested parties (debtors, creditors & heirs).   

Once the Letter of Executorship have been issued by the Master of the High Court, the Executor may proceed to administer the estate. The Executor takes custody of the estate’s assets and establishes whether the estate is solvent or insolvent. He or she has to submit a Liquidation or Distribution Account (L&D account) within 6 months after the Letter of Executorship has been issued, which includes a list of all the assets, liabilities, estate duties and the distribution account 

This process may seem simple but there are various factors which makes it difficult for an Executor to submit the account timeously especially if the estate is complex. It is not uncommon for an Executor to request the Master for a postponement for lodging the L&D account t at a later stage. 

After the L&D account has been lodged and approved by the Master, the account has to lay for inspection for 21 days. Only if there are no objections, the distribution of the account may proceed, which includes delivering of certain assets, transfer of property and payment of the funds to the specific heirs.  

An Executor may, at his or her own risk, advance certain cash payments to beneficiaries of the estate subject thereto that the estate is solvent and there are enough funds to make the payments. As the risk lies with the Executor this is his or her sole discretion and there is no obligation on him or her to do so.  This discretion can be exercised without the consent of the Master as the risk lies with the Executor.   

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 adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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