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  • Estate Management

Estate Management

07 July 2016


If you have been made the Executor of an estate and are unsure of what you have to do, don’t panic, you can get an expert to handle it for you while you handle your mourning

Losing someone, whether close to you or not, is always a difficult time. Now add onto that the fact that you have been listed as the Executor of that person’s estate. So now what do you do? Where do you even start?

“Every person’s death is accompanied by a different set of circumstances and dealing with the practical matters of the estate may feel overwhelming to a surviving spouse, children or other loved one. Using a professional with specialised experience ensures an efficient and smooth administration process, minimises risk, ensures compliance and lightens the burden,” says Quarashia Rahiman, Senior Estates Administrator at BDO Wealth Advisers.

Deceased estate management involves the winding up processes in disposing and managing a person’s estate (which consists of assets and debts) after they have passed away. If a person passes away leaving a valid will their estate will be administered in accordance with the provisions of their Last will and Testament. In instances where a person passes away without leaving a will (or having a valid will) their estate will be administered in terms of the Intestate Succession Act.

The tariff for Executor’s Fee is prescribed and set out in the Administration of Estates Act and states that an executor is entitled to charge 3.5% on the gross value of the assets in the estate and 6% on income accrued and collected after date of death until the estate is finalised.

However, in high net worth estates the Executor’s fee is usually negotiated and based on the complexity and nature of the work, skill and level of expertise required, time allocation etc.

“If you do not have estate experience, the Master of the High Court may refuse to accept your appointment as Executor unless you are assisted by an experienced and professional agent,” explains Rahiman.

So how do you decide on an estate administrator?

“Estate Management is a complex and specialised area of law that only passionate people take on. It is challenging and requires that you constantly apply your mind, keep pace with new developments and amendments to relevant legislation, new practices with your stakeholders and it demands strong problem solving skills,” continues Rahiman

“It is a field of specialisation that draws on and extends to other practice areas of law eg. dealing with a business as a going concern, foreign assets, litigation, conveyancing of fixed property, calculation of an accrual claim etc. It is also deeply gratifying to be in a position to assist people during an emotionally difficult time.”

But not to worry, you have options, there are a lot of estate administrators and they range from attorneys and accountants to the banks or trust companies with estate experience.

What should you look for in your estate administrator?

“Expertise, wealth of experience and presence in the industry, a personal and customised client approach, other service line offerings (investment management and financial planning/ will drafting service) are factors to take into consideration as they speak to maintaining client relations after the estate is finalised,” she says.

But what if I don’t speak to other members of the family?

“As an estate administratorwe will manage the family involved in the Estate. It is imperative to consult with and keep all heirs informed and manage their expectations during the administration process. It is important to have empathy, remain impartial, listen to their particular circumstances and understand their needs as a family and guide/offer advice accordingly whilst maintaining professionalism and acting in the best interests of the estate, the heirs and to avoid conflict. Something a family member can’t always manage,” says Rahiman

“My advice to everyone who has to handle an estate is to consult and appoint a reputable expert as an agent, seek professional guidance where needed and be involved in the process as you ultimately remain accountable to the Master of the High Court and interested parties.”

What if you can’t afford an estate administrator?

“Gather all relevant and formal documentation of the deceased and schedule an appointment with an Assistant Master of the High Court who will explain the process and assist with the completion of forms for the initial reporting of the estate only, at no cost,” she concludes. “As highlighted above - If you do not have estate experience, the Master of the High Court may refuse to accept your appointment as Executor unless you are assisted by an experienced and professional agent.”

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