Slide 1
Serving our clients for more than 25 years
Slide 2
Trusted to deliver peace of mind solutions
previous arrow
next arrow

How long does it take to wind up an estate?

by | Uncategorized

BY LOUIS VAN VUREN (CEO of the Fiduciary Institute of Southern Africa)

A look at the average process, with a guide to how long each part of the process could take.

How long does it take to wind up an estate? Answering this question is as difficult as answering ‘How long is a piece of string?’ As a rough guide, a deceased estate can take anything from five months (which is the absolute minimum and almost impossible) to several years to wind up.

The time required depends on the size and structure of the deceased person’s assets and liabilities.

In the case of an estate with assets worth less than R250 000, the process is fairly simple and an executor is not appointed, but a person – usually a family member – is authorised by the Master of the High Court to pay and collect debts and distribute the assets of the deceased to the heirs, often the spouse and children of the deceased.

This article deals with estates valued at more than R250 000, in which case an executor needs to be appointed.

This person will:

  • apply for letters of executorship to be issued to him/her by the master of the High Court;
  • take control of all assets of the deceased;
  • close the deceased’s bank accounts;
  • advertise for debtors and creditors;
  • pay creditors (including SARS);
  • draft a liquidation and distribution (L&D) account; and
  • distribute the deceased’s assets in accordance with the provisions of the will and as set out in the L&D account.

The executor cannot start the administration process before receipt of the letters of executorship.

The time taken to wind up an estate will be influenced by the service levels the executor experiences when dealing with various institutions such as the office of the Master of the High Court, the South African Revenue Service, financial institutions and the deceased’s employer.

The Administration of Estates Act of 1965 also prescribes certain processes that carry compulsory time periods. The two main ones are:

  • the advertisement period for debtors and creditors; and
  • the inspection period during which the L&D account must be available for inspection at the relevant Master’s office.

In the first case, the advertisement advising debtors and creditors of the deceased to pay their debts and lodge their claims must appear in both the Government Gazette and a local newspaper in the area where the deceased lived. The advertisement must state that the debtors and creditors have 30 days from the date of the last of these advertisements in which to take action. Before this time period expires, the executor cannot finalise the L&D account.

The L&D account must then be lodged with and examined by the Master. As soon as all requirements of the Master have been complied with, another advertisement must be placed in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper advising all interested parties that the account is available for inspection at the Master’s office for a period of 21 days.

Sometimes, due to a complex asset structure or tax issues, more than one L&D account dealing with different assets will have to be drawn before the estate can be finalised.

The table below reflects rough guideline time periods that cannot be avoided.

The column reflecting the time if delays are experienced does not reflect a maximum time period. In certain cases, it may take longer than this to finalise the estate if there is, for example, insufficient cash or problems with the transfer of property.













This article first appeared here.