Written for Property Poser

This week the Property Poser panel examines the role of the executor in a deceased estate following a query from an aggrieved beneficiary who considers one such incumbent a dead loss.

The reader explains that a family member was appointed as executor but that she and fellow beneficiaries have been unhappy with his administration of the estate thus far.

She would like to know whether he can be removed from his position and replaced.

Furthermore, the reader would like to know whether she can insist on a progress report from the current executor in order to determine how far the matter is from finalisation.

According to Rian du Toit from DTS Attorneys in Port Elizabeth the executor is normally appointed in terms of the wishes expressed in a deceased’s will.

“The Master of the High Court formalises the appointment of the executor by issuing a ‘letters of executorship’, which authorises the appointee to administer the estate.”

Du Toit says the executor has to take control of the assets that form part of the deceased estate and identify the beneficiaries.

“Some of the executor’s first actions are to pay any outstanding creditors and collect any debts owing to the estate.”

All of these actions are reflected in the so-called liquidation and distribution account, which must be submitted to the Master’s office for approval, says Du Toit.

“The L&D account provides details of all movable and immovable assets as well as creditors paid. It goes on to show who the beneficiaries are, the extent of the inheritance and how the bequest will be transferred to them.”

Du Toit says people with an interest in the estate, such as creditors or heirs, may query the account.

“The executor’s duties culminate in the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the final account.”

In addition, says Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in PE, the executor is responsible for calculating and paying over any taxes such as income tax, capital gains tax and estate duty.

The executor reports to the Master during the course of the administration process and the latter may at any time request further particulars and specific documentary evidence, says Vermaak.

“If any beneficiaries or creditors are unhappy with the progress or actions of the executor, they can approach the Master with their specific queries.”

Vermaak says it should be kept in mind that the administration of an estate can be complicated and that there are often delays as the executor deals with third parties in effecting certain transactions.

“It stands to reason therefore that concerns are not necessarily justified merely because of delays. Rather, the main question should be whether there has been any impropriety on the part of the executor.”

It goes without saying, says Vermaak, that the beneficiaries may contact the executor directly about any issues or uncertainties relating to the finalisation of the estate.

“Only in instances where the executor is not forthcoming with information should the Master’s office be approached for relief.”

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