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What is the difference between Legacy and Heir?

To answer this question one should look at how the estate is distributed. The executor first pays the debts of the estate, secondly he will do the handing over to the legacies and lastly he will give the balance to the heirs. The difference is that the legacy is bequest a specific object like a car or an amount of money. The heir(s) take what is left. For instance the deceased left his car to this daughter and said that his son must inherit the rest. The executor will then first pay the debts, transfer ownership to the daughter (legacy) then give what is left the son (heir).   


What is meant by the Administration of an Estate?

The administration of an estate is not a once off action, but a complicated legal process which require indebt knowledge of the process. It is for this reason that the Master will not appoint a layman as an Executor of an Estate late if in cases where there is no proof that that Executor will be assisted by a knowledgeable qualified person. What happen in a nutshell is that various documents are lodged at the Master of the High Court’s Office to report the estate of the deceased. The Master then appoint an Executor who he will keep responsible for the administration of the estate. Even if the Executor appoint an agent to act on his/her behalf as an Executor, the Master will still hold the appointed Executor responsible for the proper administration of the estate.


Here follows a short survey of the normal steps which are to be taken in the process of winding up a deceased estate;

1       At the death of a person, his/her estate is reported at the office of the Master, who issues letters of executorship in terms of which the executor is authorised to administer (wind up) the estate.

2       After the letters of executorship has been issued, a notice is published in a local newspaper in which debtors are requested to pay their debts and creditors to submit their claims against the estate within 30 days after the date of publication of the notice.

3       All amounts owing to the estate are collected. Fixed property, movable property and shares are appraised by persons specially appointed by the firm, and certificates to assert all other estate assets are acquired. Unless the will provides otherwise, estate assets may only be sold to pay debts, or with permission of the heirs.

4       If the estate is solvent, the estate debts are paid, or arrangements are made for the taking over of debts by heirs, for example the taking over of existing mortgage bonds over fixed properties.

5       Within six months after the appointment of an executor, an estate account is prepared and submitted to the Master. This account is a report of all the assets and liabilities as on the date of death and it also reflects the distribution of the net surplus between the heirs. This distribution takes place in accordance with the directions in the will, or where the deceased died without a will, the distribution is done in terms of the law of intestate succession.

6       The Master examines the account and if he is satisfied therewith, an advertisement is placed in a local newspaper to the effect that the account is available for inspection, should any interested person wish to object against the account.

7       After the account has lain free of objections, inheritances are paid over to the heirs and any property which he/she inherits are handed over to him/her. Fixed property, such as a house, is formally transferred in the Deeds Office in the name of the heir.

8       After all the assets have been handed over or transferred to the heirs and all debts of the estate have been paid, application is made to the Master for discharge of the executor and the estate is therewith finalised.

9       The firm takes the executor’s fees allowed by the Master as remuneration for the work done in winding up the estate. Deeds Office work, if any, is done at the usual conveyancing tariffs.

10     If no complications props up, a deceased estate can be completely finalised in less than a year.


NFC Attorneys Inc. is a firm of attorneys that inter alia also specialise in drafting of wills and administration of Estates. Drafting of will is done pro bona, which mean that it is done free of charge. As the firm respect testator freedom, it will not require you to make the firm the Executor.  The firm further provide an additional service to you ,free of charge, namely the safe keeping of you original will with a reference number, enableling your love ones after your demise to know exactly where your will is and give them further the insurance that is not been tampered with. This original will must be handed to Master of the High Court when the estate is reported to him.