Throughout your life, you may acquire assets like a house or a car and also be in possession of certain items that you hold near and dear to your heart, like family heirlooms. However, the fact that you will die one day is not a pleasant thought. These assets and precious items form part of your estate, which will need to be divided, distributed and administered after your passing. This is usually done in accordance with your will by the executor of your estate.

What is an executor

The person appointed to attend to the administration of your estate after you have passed away is known as the executor. The executor is appointed in terms of the Administration of Estates Act, 66 of 1965 by the Master of the High Court. The Administration of Estates Act[1] sets out certain rights and responsibilities of an appointed executor. It also provides for the remuneration of and an executor and the consequences for when an executor does not meet their responsibilities.

How many  Executors can you have, and how are they chosen

There can be more than one executor appointed to administer an estate, which will act as co-executors. They will share the executor’s remuneration and the duties and responsibilities. In the instance that a person passes away having had prepared a will, the executor or executors will be nominated in the will and appointed by the Master of the High Court accordingly. In the event that a person passes without having a will, their heirs will nominate an executor or executors in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987 and are also appointed by the Master of the High Court accordingly.

Who cannot be appointed as executor? 

The executor can be anyone that the deceased person trusts, like a friend, an attorney or a family member. There are, however, a few individuals and entities that are disqualified from being an executor, including but not limited to an insolvent person, a minor child, a company, the Master of the High Court and anyone disqualified from being an executor in terms of the Act[2] to name a few.

The responsibilities and duties of an executor

An executor must administer and distribute the deceased’s estate in terms of their will or in terms of the Intestate Succession Act,[3] where there is no will. The executor’s duties are as follows:

  • They will need to list all personal effects, contact all the banks and other institutions at which the deceased would have had accounts and collect all the assets and liabilities of the deceased’s estate.
  • They are required to do a valuation of the assets and liabilities and account for them in a Liquidation and Distribution Account submitted to the Master of the High Court.
  • The Liquidation and Distribution Account is then advertised so that all stakeholders may approach the executor and prove their claim against the estate.
  • The executor will need to process the transfer of assets, pay all claims against the estate, and pay the relevant taxes, transfer duties, and fees.
  • Once all claims against the estate have been gathered. Then, the executor will wind up and distribute the estate in accordance with the will or intestate.


In conclusion, it is crucial to know an executor’s duties and what role they play in the administration of your estate. It is also imperative to ensure that the person chosen for this great honour is someone you can trust.  Therefore, it is essential to know their responsibilities and effect on your estate. Also, to make sure that you are not acting in a manner that can be detrimental to heirs. Consult with a legal professional before drafting having any legal documentation drafted.

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw for your legal needs!

[1]              Administration of Estates Act, 66 of 1965

[2]              Administration of Estates Act, 66 of 1965

[3]              Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987