Communication between executor and stakeholders in an estate is important

A number of sections in the Administration of Estates Act make some form of communication or disclosure compulsory. The first is the reporting of an estate and the submission of a will to the Master of the Supreme Court. This is not the executor's responsibility, as at this stage no official appointment has been made.

Once appointed, the executor must, among other things, advertise to creditors, submit a liquidation and distribution account to the Master and publish it, deal with objections and complete the Master's questionnaire. Other compulsory communication is when a claim is rejected in writing with reasons, and when an estate is insolvent.

At present, in the case of an estate with gross assets of less than R125 000, an executor is usually not appointed. It is assumed that no formal administration will take place and that the estate will be wound up quickly.

Other communication includes everything associated with the duties of an executor or his proxy with regard to the due administration of the estate in terms of the Administration of Estates Act.

Keeping the lines open

Although not compulsory, a good executor or his proxy is expected to communicate regularly with heirs and other stakeholders. A very important interview takes place right at the start, when certain documents required for the reporting of the estate must be completed and all available information and documents must be provided.

During this interview the entire administration process can be explained, questions answered and other important arrangements made. However, it is not always possible for a spouse, children or other heirs to be present.

When the executor reports the estate to the Master, he should send the first letter or e-mail to the heirs. In it he should inter alia state that he is the contact person; attach a copy of the will, if not intestate, a brochure explaining the process of administering an estate, and a form requesting certain particulars from the heirs; and state that the estate has been reported to the Master.

The next communication should be sent out after the executor has been appointed and details of the first advertisement to creditors are provided. After about two months the next report should be available, containing either a summary of the provisional details of known assets and liabilities, or reasons why these cannot be supplied or a draft/final estate account.

Problems that could affect the administration period and/or the values of inheritances must also be communicated and heirs must be kept informed.

Further communication includes the issuing of the Master's questionnaire, date of the next advertisement during the period of inspection of the estate account, and the anticipated date of finalisation.

Other important communication includes, for example, communication with creditors and regular communication with the Master and SARS. The Master could relieve an executor of his office if the latter does not comply with the Master's requirements regarding the timely submission of an estate account and/or his questionnaire. If the executor cannot meet these requirements in time, he may ask for more time, giving valid reason for his request.

Regular communication is therefore always important.

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