Tracking Deceased Estates in South Africa: Master of the High Court

In South Africa, the management and tracking of deceased estates have traditionally been a complex and often opaque process. This has changed significantly with the introduction of a new online system by the office of the Chief Master of the High Court. Designed to simplify and bring transparency to the administration of estates, this innovative system marks a significant step forward in streamlining estate management and enhancing public access to crucial information. This introduction will guide you through the key features of this online portal, its benefits, and how to effectively use it for tracking and managing deceased estates in South Africa. Whether you are an executor, a family member of the deceased, or a legal professional, this system promises to ease the burdensome process that often accompanies the management of estates, bringing efficiency and clarity where it is most needed.

Steps on Tracking Deceased Estates in South Africa: Master of the High Court

To effectively navigate and utilize the new online system for tracking deceased estates in South Africa, follow these steps:

  1. Access the Online Portal: Visit the public-access website here. This portal is part of the Chief Master of the High Court’s initiative to provide transparent and updated information on the administration of estates and trusts.
  2. Register as a User: To access detailed information, you may need to register as a user on the portal. This process involves providing some personal details to verify your identity and create a login.
  3. Search for Specific Estates: Once registered, use the search function to locate specific deceased estates. You can search using various criteria such as the name of the deceased, the reference number of the estate, or the location.
  4. Access Estate Details: The system provides details about which Master’s Office is administering the estate, the estate’s reference number, and potentially other relevant information such as details of the executor or accounts lodged with the Master.
  5. Check for Updates Regularly: The portal is updated daily, so for ongoing cases, it’s advisable to check back regularly for the latest information.
  6. Utilize Additional Resources: The Master’s Office also offers resources on the Department of Justice’s website, found here. This site includes information under “special interest areas – Master of the High Court”, which can be helpful for understanding how matters are processed.
  7. Seek Help if Needed: If you encounter difficulties or need further assistance, consider reaching out to the Master’s Office directly or consult legal professionals who specialize in estate administration.
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Read: How long does it take to settle a deceased estate in South Africa

This system is designed to streamline the process of tracking and managing deceased estates, making it easier for executors and family members to access vital information during a challenging time. It’s also a tool in the fight against corruption, increasing transparency in the administration of estates.

Video: Deceased Estates South Africa


How to lodge a claim against a deceased estate in South Africa

To lodge a claim against a deceased estate in South Africa, you should follow these steps:

  1. Obtain Death Notice and Estate Number: First, you need to find out the estate number and get a copy of the death notice. This can usually be obtained from the Master’s Office where the estate is registered or from the executor of the estate.
  2. Contact the Executor: The executor of the estate is responsible for handling claims against the estate. You should contact them directly. Their details can be found on the death notice or through the Master’s Office.
  3. Prepare Documentation: Prepare a written claim detailing the nature of your claim, the amount owed, and any supporting documentation. This may include contracts, invoices, loan agreements, or any other relevant documents that substantiate your claim.
  4. Submit the Claim: Submit your claim and supporting documents to the executor of the estate. It is advisable to do this via registered mail or another method that provides proof of delivery.
  5. Wait for Acceptance or Rejection: The executor will consider your claim and either accept or reject it. If your claim is accepted, the executor will arrange for payment from the estate funds.
  6. Legal Action if Necessary: If your claim is rejected and you believe it is valid, you may need to take legal action. It is advisable to consult with a lawyer who specializes in estate matters to understand your options.
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Remember to lodge your claim within the stipulated time frame, usually within 30 days from the date of the advertisement of the estate by the executor in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper. Failure to do so may result in your claim being disregarded.

How much does it cost to wind up an estate in South Africa?

The cost of winding up an estate in South Africa can vary widely depending on various factors such as the size and complexity of the estate, the professional fees of the executor, legal fees, and other administrative expenses. Here’s a general breakdown:

  1. Executor’s Fees: The maximum fee an executor can charge is stipulated by law. It’s currently set at 3.5% of the gross value of the estate plus 14% VAT (if the executor is VAT registered). For example, for an estate worth R1,000,000, the maximum executor’s fee would be R35,000 plus VAT.
  2. Conveyancing Attorney Fees: If the estate includes property that needs to be transferred, there will be conveyancing fees. These fees are based on a tariff and depend on the value of the property.
  3. Advertisement Costs: Legal notices need to be placed in newspapers and the Government Gazette, for which there are standard charges.
  4. Master’s Fee: There is a fee payable to the Master of the High Court, which is based on the value of the estate. This is generally a nominal amount.
  5. Appraisement Costs: If the estate requires a professional valuation of assets, there might be additional costs.
  6. Accountancy Fees: If the estate’s financial affairs are complex, an accountant may be required to prepare final accounts, incurring additional fees.
  7. Other Possible Costs: These can include bank charges for opening a separate estate bank account, costs for obtaining death certificates, and other administrative expenses.
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It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and actual costs can vary. Estates of a lower value may have lower costs, and estates that are particularly complex or contentious can incur significantly higher expenses. It’s advisable to discuss the potential costs with a legal professional who can provide a more accurate estimate based on the specific circumstances of the estate.

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