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What do I need to keep in mind when appointing an executor in my will?
09 November 2018
“I’m getting married soon and know that we are going to have to get a will in place. My friend told me that an important decision is deciding on who the executor of our estate will be. I have no idea though how to decide or what to consider. Can you help?”

Your friend is correct to say that the nomination of your executor is an important aspect of your will. Your executor is nominated in your will and upon your death, he or she will administer and distribute your estate in accordance with your testamentary wishes. Importantly, although you nominate your executor, the executor is only appointed by the Master of the High Court through the issuing of Letters of Executorship after your death.

Your executor will be responsible for, amongst other things:

Interpreting your will
Locating all the beneficiaries
Compiling a list of documents and information required by the Master of the High Court
Collecting information on all the assets and liabilities of the deceased
Calculating and paying estate duty
Allocating inheritances to beneficiaries in accordance with the will

Although it has become a regular practice to appoint a family member as executor, it should be kept in mind that, not only is executorship an onerous and complex task, but in terms of the regulations published by the Minister of Justice, only certain persons may administer estates for remuneration, for example practising accountants, practising attorneys and registered trust companies. 

Another alternative is to have family members nominated as co-executors together with an independent executor. However, this can create complexity which may hamper the speedy administration of your estate.

It should be noted that the Master may in some cases refuse to appoint a nominated executor, or only grant executorship if the executor is assisted by a fiduciary professional or provides security by way of an insurance policy.

It is also important to keep in mind that, should a family member be nominated, this family member will have to make decisions about the administration of the estate during an emotionally difficult time. More often than not, such a decision may be made solely based on fees, without considering whether the appointed agent has the knowledge, skill and testator’s best wishes at heart.

Our advice is to talk to your attorney or consult a fiduciary expert before making the decision of whom to appoint as executor and let them assist you in drafting your will correctly and deciding on whom to nominate as your executor.
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