Aug 31

Wills and Estates

It’s often difficult to bring ‘good news’ in the Fiduciary Services sector, no matter how passionate we are about our profession, but this month Appleton is delighted to bring you some very good news that should improve efficiency in the sector across the board.

We have always kept readers up to date on the challenges we encounter at a number of the

Masters’ offices across the country. The Master plays the central role in governing and approving the entire deceased estate process. The systemic challenges we have faced include slow and inconsistent approval of Letters of Executorship without which we simply cannot administer a deceased estate and the slow and inconsistent issuance of query sheets which provide acceptance of our Liquidation and Distribution Accounts. Again, without the issuance of a clean query sheet from the Master, we cannot proceed to advertise, process a distribution of assets to heirs and finally close the estate. Of course, Covid-19 lockdowns delayed the process even more and, in some cases, we don’t seem to have fully recovered optimal service from the Master.

 We have engaged regularly with the Fiduciary Institute of South Africa, with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice, the Justice Ministry and even directly with the Chief Master. After years of frustration, we are finally able to report a significant development through the launch of the Master’s Office online web portal.

The portal is now operational in the Johannesburg and Durban Masters’ offices. Cape Town

is in the pilot project phase and is expected to be operational on 1 September 2023. The portal allows Appleton to register a new deceased estate and directly upload all the necessary documents, although the original signed Will must still be delivered to the Master to be validated and accepted before the Letters of Executorship will be issued. This is a significant time-saver in the administration process and we have noted an improvement in the turn-around time for issuing of the Letters of Executorship, which is Critical.

We are now also able to track and trace the progress and processing of the estate on the

Master’s portal which provides more transparency, accountability and potential efficiency. A QR code is now featured on the newly electronically issued Letters of Executorship, which confirms the validity of the document, for extra safety and security.

So, well done the Department of Justice and the Master’s Office and we now look forward to

bringing these efficiencies to our clients and heirs.