What to do in the case of a Death

Trusts and Wills - What to do in the case of death

trusts   wills   estatefamily

What to do When a Loved One Passes Away

The items listed below give a general guideline of things that need to be taken care of when someone dies. The information below does not cover every eventuality - only the most basic straightforward cases. Please note, that Helfin Financial Services Group will not be held responsible for any errors and or omissions.  If your circumstances are complex or unusual or if you are in any doubt as to what action to take, you are advised to consult an attorney.

The Steps one should take are summarized as follows:

1 Transporting the body to a mortuary, identifying the deceased, and obtaining a death notice
2 Arrange the Funeral
3 Obtain Death Certificate
4 Establish who the Executor is
5 List of documents required in administration of estate process
6 Report Estate with Master of the High Court of South Africa
7 Duties of Executor
8 Intestate succession/Deceased has no Will
9 Firearms
10 Estates frequently asked questions


Transporting the body to a mortuary, identifying the deceased, and obtaining a death notice

There is a different order of events depending on the type of death, (see below). The first item to consider is which funeral director you are going to use, you are not obliged to use the first referral or the one that removes the body from the scene. It is up to you as a consumer to compare what is offered and select accordingly as you would with any other purchase. The funeral director you decide to use will gladly collect the deceased from the first referral if your chosen funeral director was not the first on the scene Funeral Director
One needs to have the deceased moved to a suitable mortuary and acquire a Death Notice / Notification of Death (cause of death) also known as the BI-1663 Medical Certificate. The death notice referred to here is not the 'Death Certificate' obtained from Home Affairs. The next of kin need not wait for the Death Notice (BI-1663 Medical Certificate) to be issued, your funeral director will usually take care of this detail for you. Death Notice
1. If a person dies in hospital of natural causes, the doctor will issue a death notice. Many private hospitals don’t have mortuary facilities, in those cases a funeral director needs to be contacted immediately to collect the deceased. State Hospitals generally have mortuary facilities; the body must remain there until a death notice is issued. Death in hospital – Natural Causes
2. If a person dies in hospital of unnatural causes, the body will need to be transferred to a state mortuary for a compulsory post mortem (autopsy). The state mortuary will then issue a death notice. Death in hospital – Unnatural Causes
3. If a person dies at home of natural causes, one should contact the doctor first. Provided the doctor is willing to issue a death notice one can contact a funeral director to transport the deceased to a mortuary. A death notice can be obtained from the deceased’s doctor if the doctor had seen the deceased within 24 hours of their death or within a reasonable time whereby the doctor is assured of the cause of death. If the doctor is unwilling to sign the death notice a funeral service will arrange for a private autopsy to be performed to ascertain the cause of death. The death notice will then be issued by the pathologist at the mortuary where the autopsy was performed. Death at home – Natural causes
4. For those who have died of natural causes at home and do not require an autopsy there is a further requirement if they are to be cremated. A second doctor needs to examine the body to confirm that there is no reason why the body cannot be cremated. Both doctors need to sign cremation forms which are then handed to the medical referee at the crematorium who will then give the final permission for the cremation to take place. Cremation

5. If a person dies at home of unnatural causes, one must contact the police. The police will organise removal of the body to a State Mortuary where a compulsory autopsy will be performed and a death notice will be issued.

Death at home – Unnatural causes

Please note: In all the above cases the body is to be identified by a relative or friend before the death notice can be issued. Anyone who knew the deceased can do the identification, provided they take both their own and the deceased's identity books or passports to the mortuary when identifying. They will need to obtain a mortuary/body number from the mortuary staff.

Identifying the Deceas

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The Funeral

All decisions should be made in terms of a persons will. Try to ascertain what kind of funeral the deceased would have preferred - burial or cremation. The responsibility for funeral arrangements and determining the deceased's last resting place normally falls on the closest next of kin or persons named as heirs in the deceased’s will.
For legal and health reasons it is not recommended that one attempts to carry out the job of an undertaker oneself. The services of a funeral director/undertaker are required.

Wishes of the deceased

In certain instances the deceased may already have been removed from the scene. It is absolutely acceptable to select a different funeral director to continue with the arrangements from this point onwards. Members of the NFDA and other funeral bodies have reasonable standardised rates for removals, so changing funeral directors should not affect the amount you pay for the funeral service. One is free at any point to select the funeral director who best suits you, whether it is based on price, religion, or any other factor.

Choosing Funeral Director

What to take with you to a Funeral Parlour: 

1. A copy of the deceased’s Identity Document.
2. Next of kin’s Identity Document.
3. Funeral Policy - (if there is one)
4. Marriage certificate (this is required by the insurance company if you have a policy).
5. A photo of the deceased for hymn sheets.
6. Clothes - for the deceased to be dressed in. 

Important documents

Funeral directors usually handle the following items:

1. Obtaining the death notice from the medical attendants
2. Registering the death to Home Affairs and collecting the death certificate
3. Supplying you with the original and the necessary certified copies of these forms for estate purposes
4. Organising death notices in newspapers
5. Offer a selection of coffins to choose from
6. Preparing and dressing the deceased for viewing / burial / cremation
7. Cemetery or crematorium bookings and arrangements
8. Local transport of deceased
9. Embalming of the deceased for repatriation (where required) 

Funeral Director responsibilities

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Obtaining a Death Certificate

Obtaining a death certificate is vital in order to administer a deceased estate. The Births and Deaths Registration Act requires every death to be reported to the Department of Home Affairs. The death notice obtained from the doctor / pathologist needs to be handed in at Home Affairs. Home Affairs will then issue a Death Certificate approximately two weeks later. This detail will usually be handled for you by your funeral parlour.

Dept Home Affairs

The Executor needs to take several copies of the Death Certificate to a police station along with the original, to be stamped and certified by the police. Every instruction given and transaction done on behalf of the deceased, e.g. closing accounts, etc., will need to be accompanied by a certified copy of the death certificate.


See information regarding 'Registration of Deaths' on the South African Department of Home Affairs website. Application for Death Certificate - B132 form, on Home Affairs website

Home Affairs website

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Establish who the executor is

If the deceased had a will, they may have nominated an individual or a financial institution to perform the function of the executor. If no executor is nominated or the nominated executor is unable or refuses to accept the task, or if the person dies intestate, the master of the High Court will appoint an executor, called an Executor Dative. Those who want to take on the role of the executor should apply to, and must convince the Master of the High Court why they should be appointed. The Master generally prefers an executor who stands to inherit from the estate, and the primary beneficiary is preferable. All beneficiaries of an estate are asked to consent to the new executor, if there is a dispute, the master may appoint joint executors.


If you find yourself nominated as the executor for your spouse’s estate and are intimidated by all the legal processes you can approach a professional, such as an attorney or an accountant to assist you in administering the estate. Executor’s fees are 3.5% of the gross value of the assets in the estate and 6% commission on interest which accrues after the date of the death. If you are the nominated executor it is possible to negotiate this fee with accountants and attorneys. All legal fees, executor’s fees, Master’s fees, etc. will be paid out of the estate.

Professional Executor

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List of documents required for administration of estate






Original death certificate



Identity document of deceased



Name and address of employer of deceased



Deceased salary number



Pension Fund details



Medical aid details



Income tax number and date of last filed return



Accountant contact details (if applicable)



Deceased regular doctor contact details



SAPS docket details if death due to unnatural causes



Contact details of deceased’s business partners (if applicable)



Particulars of CC / Company



Company/CC accounting officer/auditor contact details



Details of divorced spouse, and/or



Details of predeceased spouse



Antenuptial agreement/divorce agreement/order



Title deeds of immovable property



Rates & taxes accounts + details of Body Corporate



Details of short-term insurance immov property and contents



Motor vehicle registration certificates



Short term insurance on vehicles details



Firearms – to be handed to executor/agent for safekeeping



Time share details & certificates



Share certificates



Details of Unit Trusts held



Hiring and letting contracts



Cheque books, credit & ATM cards, and details of other bank accounts



Investment statements



Details of life insurance policies and their beneficiaries



List of creditors



Id documents and marriage certificates of beneficiaries



Copies of birth certificates of minor beneficiaries



Details of guardians of minor children



FICA documents (ID & utility bill)


Important Documents for Executor

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Reporting the estate with the Master of the High Court of South Africa

A deceased estate comes into existence when a person dies and leaves property and/or a document that is a will or is intended as a will. The estate must then be administered and distributed, either in accordance with the deceased’s will or, if the deceased did not leave a will, in accordance with the provisions of the law. The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, prescribes the procedure to be followed for administering a deceased estate.


The estate of a deceased person must be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days of the date of death. The death can be reported by any person who has control or possession of any property belonging to the estate of the deceased, or who has control or possession of a document by the deceased that is or purports to be a will.

14 Days

When must a death be reported to the Master?

1. If the deceased died in South Africa and left property and/or any document that is a will or is intended as a will

2. If the deceased died outside South Africa, but left in South Africa property and/or any document that is a will or is intended as a will


Where a deceased estate must be reported? Although all magistrates’ offices are service points for the Master where estates of the deceased can be reported, they have limited jurisdiction and shall transfer all estates with wills, as well as estates that exceed R50 000 in value, to the provincial office of the Master. If you wish to report such an estate, it is therefore best to do so too directly at the Master’s office.


Steps to follow:(To access any of the forms below click on the word with the red link)


If the value of the estate is less than R50 000, report the estate to the magistrate’s office.

If the value exceeds R50 000, report it directly to the Master’s office.

1. If the deceased was living in South Africa at the time of his or her death, report the estate to the Master who has jurisdiction of the area where the deceased was living at the time of his or her death.

2. If the deceased was not living in South Africa at the time of his or her death, you can report the estate to any (but not more than one) Master.

3. Report the estate by completing Form J294: Death notice and the other relevant reporting documents listed below.

4. You can obtain the Death notice and other reporting documents from any office of the Master of the high court or from any magistrate's office or from the website, under the heading “Forms”

5. The value of the estate and the type of appointment required will determine which documents you have to complete and submit.

Value less than R 50,000

If the value of the estate is under R125 000, complete the following documents:

1. Form J294 : Death notice

2.Form J192 : Affidavit: particulars of next of kin next of kin – to be completed if the deceased did not leave a valid will

3. Form J243 : Inventory form

4. Nomination to act as executor (Executor Nomination and Representative) – to be completed by the heirs to appointment a Master’s representative

   i. if it is an intestate estate; or

   ii. if the will does not nominate a specific executor; or

   iii. if the nominated executor has died or has declined the appointment

5. Form J155 : Undertaking and acceptance of Master’s directions

6. Affidavit confirming that the estate has not been reported at any other Master / Magistrate (Reporting Affidavit)

7. Declaration of subsisting marriages

8. Append the following documents to the completed forms listed above:

   i. The original death certificate or a certified copy thereof

   ii. An original marriage certificate or a certified copy thereof – if applicable

   iii. All original wills and codicils (that is, an additional part of a will that either modifies the original will or revokes part of it) or documents intended as such – if any

   iv. A list of creditors of deceased – if applicable

   v. Certified copy of the ID of the person applying to be appointed

Value less than R 125,000

If the value of the estate is under R125 000, the Master may dispense with letters of executorship, and instead issue letters of authority in terms of Section 18(3) of the Administration of Estates Act, 1965.

Section 18(3)

If the value of the estate exceeds R125 000, complete the following documents:

1. Form J294 : Death notice

2. Form J192 : Affidavit: particulars of next of kin – to be completed if the deceased did not leave a valid will. This affidavit, by the next of kin of a deceased black person who did not leave a valid will, must state that the estate has not been reported to another Master or another service point (if applicable).

3. Form J243 : Inventory form

4. Nomination to act as executor (Executor Nomination and Representative) –to be completed by all heirs to appoint a Master’s representative

   i. if it is an intestate estate; or

   ii. if the will does not nominate a specific executor; or

   iii. if the nominated executor has died or has declined the appointment

5. Form J190 : Acceptance of trust as executor – to be completed in duplicate by the person(s) nominated as executor(s)

6. Form J262 : Undertaking and bond of security – to be completed unless the nominated executor

   i. has been exempted from providing security in the will, or

   ii. is the parent, spouse or child of the deceased

   iii. Declaration of subsisting marriages

Submit the completed forms listed above together with the following documents:

1. The original death certificate or a certified copy thereof

2. An original marriage certificate or a certified copy thereof – if applicable)

3. All original wills and codicils (that is, an additional part of a will that either modifies the original will or revokes part of it) or documents intended as such – if any

4. Certified copy of the person applying to be appointed

5. If the person applying to be appointed as executor is a lay person, he/she should be assisted by an Attorney, Trust Company or Accounting Firm – proof of which should be lodged If the value of the estate exceeds R125 000, letters of executorship must be issued, and the full process prescribed by the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965, must be followed. The service points (magistrates’ offices) only have jurisdiction if the deceased did not leave a valid will and the gross value of the deceased estate is under R50 000. A letter of authority entitles the nominated representative to administer the estate without following the full procedure prescribed in the Administration of Estates Act, 1965

Value more than R 125,000

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Duties of an Executor after appointment by Master

Different Masters offices have slightly different requirements, so it is advisable to enquire as to exactly what they require. Aside from the will, all of the above documents are available from the Masters offices.


The Master of the High Court will grant 'Letters of Executorship' to those persons who have been authorised to deal with the estate and who have agreed to accept the job of winding up the estate. Copies of the ‘Letters of Executorship’ will be needed by banks and insurance companies that may hold assets pertaining to the deceased as proof that the assets they hold will be passed on to the properly authorised representative of the deceased’s estate.

Letter of Executorship

What the executor must do once appointed by the Master of the High Court

Task List

1. Advertise the estate,(Form J193 Notice to Creditors)so that any creditors can become aware of the need to register their claims against the estate. Advertisements must be placed in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper where the deceased resided in the 12 months preceding death. Creditors have 30 days from the date of publication of the advertisement to lodge any claims against the estate. See what detail the newspapers require for these adverts Estates FAQ (4th question).


2. Take a look at the deceased’s bank account or post, in order to find what monthly payments are being made. You will need to pay up and close these accounts, e.g. credit cards, petrol card, telephone accounts, DSTV, gym membership, clothing accounts, etc.

Recurring payments

3. Close the deceased’s bank accounts and open up a cheque/current account called “estate late” followed by the deceased’s name as soon as more than R100 has been received. All investments will be paid into this account and all creditors and beneficiaries will be paid from this account.

Bank Account

4. Assets like the deceased’s house may be sold, depending on what the beneficiaries want. The proceeds from the sale will go into the ‘Estate Account'. This will later be paid out to beneficiaries from the ‘Estate Account'.


5. Give notice on shares, investments, annuities, policies, etc., that moneys owing to the deceased are to be paid into the ‘Estate Account'. If beneficiaries have been nominated in policies, they will bypass the estate and be transferred directly to the nominated beneficiary.


6. The executor then needs to prepare the'J187 Liquidation and Distribution Account'(L&D account). This can take from six weeks to six months or even longer depending on the degree of difficulty of the estate. The L&D account includes all the assets and liabilities in the estate at the date of death. It also includes the income and expenditure incurred by the estate since the date of death. The net value of the estate is then the inheritance due to the beneficiaries. When a person dies it can trigger a capital gains tax event depending on the size of the estate, which requires expert tax knowledge to do the calculation. The executor then submits the L&D account together with supporting documents to the Master of the High Court. If the Master has queries, the executor is to respond within a certain time period. The executor submits the deceased’s final tax return to SARS at the same time.

L & D Account

7. Once the Master of the High Court has given his approval, the account must be advertised in the Government Gazette and in a local newspaper and made available for inspection for 21 days at the Master’s office and at the Magistrates office in the district where the deceased lived. The heirs should have the opportunity to review the account before it is finally submitted to the master. If no objections are lodged against the liquidation & distribution account, the Master will confirm that the executor may distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.


8. Before distributing the estate the executor must obtain a release from SARS. This will only be granted by SARS once they are satisfied that all outstanding taxes have been paid.

SARS Release

9. Creditors must be paid before the residue of the estate can be distributed among heirs.


10. After the account has been advertised, the executor prepares a cash statement and distributes the assets to heirs. It takes an average of eight months to three years to finalise an estate. The executor will also arrange for transfer of fixed property, e.g. a house that was in the deceased’s name into the name of the person who inherited it. There will be no transfer duty, but the estate will pay conveyancing costs regardless of who inherits the property.

Cash Statement

11. Once the executor has provided the Master of the High Court with proof that the creditors have been paid and that the assets have been distributed, the Master signs off the estate and the executor’s task is complete.

Sign Off by Master

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If the deceased has no will / Intestate succesion  

The Master of the High Court may appoint an executor dative since no-one would have been nominated in a will. The executor's first duty is to locate the will if there is one. If a will cannot be found among personal papers, enquiries should be made at the deceased’s lawyers, accountants, bank or insurance company. It may be in safe keeping with one of them. If it cannot be traced, even though relatives may be positive that one exists, the estate must be administered as if no will had been drawn up.

No Will by Deceased

If one dies without a will, or if the will is found to be invalid, the estate is to be administered in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, Act 81 of 1987. These rules only apply if the deceased was domiciled in South Africa at the time of death. If the deceased was domiciled in another country, the laws of that country will apply, not the rules set out below. If you are not sure, see notes on domicile in Estates FAQ.


Intestate succession is based primarily on blood relationship, Illegitimacy shall not affect the capacity of a blood relation to inherit. An adopted child is considered a descendant of his adoptive parents. The following is an outline of how an intestate estate devolves:

Blood relationship

1. If the deceased is survived by a spouse or spouses, and has no living descendants, the spouse inherits the estate, if deceased was a husband in a polygamous marriage the surviving spouses will inherit in equal shares.

Spouse only

2. If the deceased is survived by a descendant, but not by a spouse, the descendant shall inherit the estate.

Child only

3. Where there is a living spouse or spouses and descendant/s, each spouse will inherit R125 000 or a child’s share, whichever is greater, (this amount is fixed from time to time by the Minister of Justice). The children will get the balance of the estate, and if a child is deceased and has descendants, that child’s portion will go to their surviving spouse and dependents.

Multiple spouses and children

4. If the deceased leaves no spouse or descendants, but both parents are alive, the parents shall inherit the estate in equal shares.


5. If the deceased has no surviving spouse or dependents but has only one surviving parent, the parent inherits half the estate and the descendants of the deceased parent the other half. If there are no such descendants, the surviving parent shall inherit the estate.

One Parent

6. If the deceased is not survived by spouse, descendant or parent but is survived by descendants of the deceased mother or father who are related to the deceased through the parents. One half of the estate divided equally among the mother’s descendants and one half of the estate divided equally among the father’s descendants.

No parents/ spouse/children

7. If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, descendant, parent or descendant of a parent, the other blood relations of the deceased who are related to him nearest in degree shall inherit the intestate estate in equal shares.

Other blood relatives

8. Where there are no relatives, and the assets have not been claimed by a legitimate heir after 30 years, the estate is forfeited to the state.

Forfeiture to State

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Firearms in an estate  

If you wish to nominate an heir for your firearms, we advise that you carefully consider who among family members or friends are stable and suitable heirs for these items. It is ideal if your chosen heir already has competency certificates relevant to the type of firearms you own, (hand guns, rifles or shot guns). If they do not already have these certificates, approach your nominated heir, discuss it with them and suggest that they go to a shooting range or gunsmith to begin the process of obtaining a competency certificate in the meantime. This will prevent the handover becoming an added burden on those you choose as heirs, and prevent the firearms from being confiscated for not being in the possession of a licensed, or certified competent owner.


If you have inherited a firearm, there are various options for the beneficiary. According to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 which came into effect on 1 July 2004 the heir has the following for options:
1. To hand the firearms to a dealer.
2. To hand the firearms to the Police to be destroyed.
3. To arrange for the firearms to be deactivated by a gunsmith. The gunsmith must issue a certificate to confirm that this has been done.
4. To apply for a new license in terms of the Firearms Control Act No. 60 of 2000. This involves writing a test with the South African Police Services and obtaining a Competency Certificate from an accredited agent. It also involves a background check by the South African Police Services and complying with gun safe regulations.

Options available to Beneficiary

If You Choose to Keep the Inherited Firearm
If you choose to keep the inherited firearm you need to obtain a license. In terms of the Firearms Control Act 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000), inheriting a firearm is not motivation enough to obtain a firearm license. The person who inherits the firearm, will have to apply for a firearm license according to one of the licensing categories. It may be mentioned in the application that the firearm is a family heirloom. The person who inherits the firearm may only take possession of the firearm when he or she has the license for the particular firearm.

Keeping the firearm

Immediate procedure to follow regarding inherited firearms
Care must be taken by the executor or anyone who holds an inherited firearm to make sure that all documentation is correct and complete, otherwise the holder of the firearm will be prosecuted for holding an illegal firearm, which is a criminal offence with severe penalties. Only the person who holds a license, or has authorisation to possess the firearm may transport that firearm to and from the place where the firearm is safely stored.
1. An Heir, next of kin or the deceased’s family who has proper storage facilities for firearms must take the firearms, and in terms of section 21 of the Act, immediately apply for a temporary permit to possess a firearm. If no proper storage facilities are available, arrangements must be made with a licensed firearms dealer to store the firearms until licences are obtained. Storage costs are for the estate account.
2. The application must be made on an SAPS 518 form and must be handed to the relevant designated firearms officer in the area where the applicant resides. The temporary permit must be valid at least until an appointment of executor notification has been issued.
3. The executor or person administering the estate must be given full particulars of the deceased’s firearms and ammunition so that an inventory can be drawn up in accordance with regulation 103(3) (a) of the Act.
4. The executor must also be given full particulars of the person who has the deceased’s firearms and ammunition in safekeeping with a copy of the permit if such a permit was issued.


The Executor’s Role Regarding Firearms
The following is a basic guide to what the executor should do according to the information at our disposal. While Helfin has attempted to decipher the Act to give a clear list of requirements that are to be complied with we have found inconsistencies and recommend that if there are firearms in an estate the executor consult with a firearms expert.

Executor’s role/tasks

1. After notification of appointment as executor has been received, the executor must take the necessary steps to ensure that the firearm and ammunition are stored safely in an approved storage facility as prescribed by Regulation 86 of the Act.


2. Once the executor is satisfied that the deceased’s firearms and ammunition are safely stored as prescribed by Regulation 86 of the Firearms Control Act, he/she issues a letter of consent to the heir concerned for the storage of the firearms and ammunition. A copy of the letter of consent must be lodged with the designated firearms officer of the area where the heir lives, with a request that the officer visit the person who has been given permission to keep the firearms in safe storage, to ensure that all the requirements are being complied with. The letter of consent must specify:
i. How long the person concerned may hold the firearms in safe storage
ii. The reason for safekeeping.
iii. Adequate particulars to enable identification of the licence, permit of authorisation and the firearm.
iv. The name, identity number and physical address of the deceased licence holder.
v. The name, identity number and physical address of the person whom permission has been given to hold the firearm in safe storage.
vi. The permission is for storage only and not for use.

Conditions of Storage

3. Within 14 days of receipt of notification of appointment of executor, the Registrar of Firearms must be provided with the following documents and information:
i. Inventory as referred to above.
ii. Name of deceased and physical address at which he/she resided.
iii. Address at which the firearms are stored.
iv. A copy of the executor’s letter of permission to the heir for storage.
v. Copy of the death certificate.
vi. Copy of the executor’s letter of appointment.
vii. Names, addresses and ID of all beneficiaries if the firearms and ammunition must be transferred as per testamentary stipulations of law of intestate succession.

14 Days

The Registrar must then record the particulars in the Central Firearms Register and acknowledge receipt thereof. At least every three months the executor must inform the Registrar in writing of the progress and the steps taken to transfer such firearms and ammunition.


4. The Application for a firearm licence can be a long process, it is essential that the heir commence the process immediately. All documentation is to be completed in black ink. As soon as the solvency and liquidity of the estate has been established, the heir is given possession of all the documentation from the executor for transfer of the firearm. This documentation includes a properly completed SAPS 271 form, a copy of the executor’s letter and permission for the transfer of the firearm. A copy of the permission must be sent to the Central Firearms Registry.

Prevent delays

5. The Act determines that an executor cannot finally wind up the estate before the Central Firearms Registry has confirmed with him/her that all firearms that were in the name of the deceased have been transferred.

Administration process

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Estates FAQ

Which Master of the High Court office do I report a deceased estate to?

Where the deceased was resident in the Republic, the estate must be reported to the Master in whose area of jurisdiction the deceased was resident at the time of his/her death. At present there are Master's Offices in Pretoria, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Graham’s town, Bisho, Umtata, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Mmabatho/Mafikeng, Johannesburg, Polokwane, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Thohoyandou.
Where the deceased was not resident in the Republic at the time of his/her death, the estate may be reported to any Master, provided it is reported to only one Master. An affidavit to the effect that the letters of executorship have not already been granted by any other Master in the Republic must accompany the reporting documents.
The Master of the High Court website provides all the contact details of the Masters Offices around South Africa. 


How do I know where someone is domiciled and why is it important?
Your legal rights and duties are often determined by the law of your place of domicile. Generally, your domicile is your permanent home. At birth, a child automatically acquires the domicile of the parent (or parents) with whom he or she is staying. A child cannot change his or her own domicile. On reaching the age of 18, a person can acquire a new domicile simply by settling in a new country with the intention of living there permanently.
In order for a place to be considered the persons domicile, there are two requirements that must be met: the person must actually settle at the particular place, and they must have the intention of residing permanently at that place. These two requirements must at some stage exist simultaneously. For Example: If a man domiciled in South Africa took a job in Botswana, there would be no change of domicile if he intended to return to South Africa, no matter how long he stayed in Botswana. On the other hand, he would acquire new domicile if he intended to settle in Botswana permanently.
The law of domicile governs many questions relating to family issues, for example the distribution of moveable property on death. For example, if Peter was domiciled in Australia, died intestate (without making a will) and left moveable property (such as shares and money) in South Africa, Australian and not South African law would decide who would inherit.


Can I get all the necessary forms without going to the Masters offices?
Yes, the Master of the High Court website provides all the forms you may need. Click on the link provided to enter the Masters website on the page which provides printable versions of all the forms needed for winding up an estate.

Electronic forms

What format/info is required when advertising an estate in the local newspaper & Government Gazette?
Contact your local newspaper and they will send you the necessary forms to fill in. Some newspapers also offer the service of forwarding the forms to the Government Gazette so that the same notice is published in both publications at the same time. View an example of the notice to creditors form. Please do not use this one, just view it as an example and contact your local newspaper to get their current forms and correct instructions.


What does the law prescribe regarding executors fees?
Executor’s fees, by law cannot exceed 3.5 percent of the gross assets (before deducting debts or tax) of your estate, plus six percent of any income, such as dividends, rent or interest, which the executor collects on behalf of your estate before it is finalised.

Executor’s fees

Who pays tax on inheritance?
If SARS is satisfied that the income has been derived for the benefit of an heir or legatee, that person will be responsible for any tax liability; if the receiver is not satisfied that this is so, the income is deemed to be the income of the estate. The executor, as representative taxpayer, is liable for payment of any tax on the income, this tax will be paid by the estate.
The names, addresses, and where possible, the tax reference numbers of those benefiting from the estate will be required by the SARS.

Inheritance tax

Do I have to pay estate duty?
Estate duty is only payable in respect of an estate of which the net value is more than 3.5 million. However, if the estate goes to a spouse then there will be no estate duty payable.

Estate duty

What if an heir cannot be located?
All money that the executor is unable to distribute in accordance with the accounts must be deposited in the Guardians Fund on behalf of those entitled to such money.

Missing heirs

What if a valid claim is made against the estate after it has been distributed?
A creditor does not lose the right to claim even if the claim is not lodged within the specified period, but may have to pay additional costs incurred by the estate in redrafting the accounts. If a legitimate claim is made after the estate has been distributed, the executor may have to pay the debt out of his own pocket. This would largely depend on whether the executor is at fault in any way, and if the estate was distributed in a way not provided for by law. If the executor is not at fault, the creditor can claim the amount from the heirs. If the amount that the heirs received does not meet the whole claim, the balance owing can be claimed from the legatees, provided this is done within three years of the date of death.

Claims after finalization

Can my spouse continue to use our bank account when I die?
Assets are frozen when estate administration begins, and this can have serious implications for dependants. A spouse married in community of property will have no access to funds in the combined estate until the executor is sure the estate is solvent, so it may take some time before the spouse can access any cash.
To avoid this, one can take out a life insurance policy in favour of your spouse or other dependants. Such policies pay directly to the beneficiaries named in the policies, often within days of the insurance company receiving the necessary information.
If your death is foreseeable, due to ill health, transfer a sum of money to your spouse or dependants.

Frozen accounts

When am I advised to get a lawyer regarding winding up an estate?
It is advisable in most instances to use a lawyer or accountant. Seek advice if you have any doubt on the proposed charges. Always ask for a fee based consultation and if you have doubts about the person you are using, get a second opinion.

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