By law the Executor or Administrator must pay all debts of the deceased from the proceeds of the estate, distribute the remaining assets and make an account of all the property received and distributed. In doing this an Executor must follow the instructions in the Will.
An Administrator does not always have the benefit of a Will that sets out how the property is to be distributed. The Intestate Succession Act, 2019, sets out in detail how the assets of an estate must be distributed when there is no Will.
Whether you are acting as an Executor or an Administrator, the steps in administering an estate are the same. Here is a quick overview…
An Executor or Administrator can seek legal advice form a lawyer about how to properly distribute an estate. This expense can be charged to the estate.
In some cases, you may be unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility of acting as Executor. Other commitments may prevent you from devoting the necessary time and attention to the administration of the estate. You are not required to act as Executor if you do not wish to do so. You may simply sign a Renunciation of Probate form indicating that you are giving up the appointment as Executor. This allows a person named as an alternate Executor to apply to the Court for Letters Probate or, if no alternate Executor was named, for another person to apply to the Court for Letters of Administration.
Before distributing the estate to beneficiaries the Executor or Administrator must make sure there are no outstanding debts or liabilities. They must consider possible claims by a spouse or dependent, any taxes owing and whether the deceased had debts.
Executors and Administrators can distribute the estate to the beneficiaries once all debts and liabilities have been dealt with. If there is a Will, property the estate will be distributed according to the Will. If there is not a Will the law sets out who receives the estate.