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What if the executor passes away before a deceased estate administration process has been finalized?

If the Executor of an Estate has appointed an Agent to administer the Estate, and the Agent passes away before the Estate Administration had been finalised, it is relatively easy for the Executor(s) to appoint a new Agent, sign a fresh power of attorney, and the administration process can be carried on.

However, if the sole Executor of a Deceased Estate passes away during the administration process, the process grounds to a halt until such time as a new Executor has been appointed.

Where more than one Executor was appointed, and one dies, the survivor(s) will carry on the process.

If the sole Executor of a Deceased Estate passes away and the Will makes provision for an alternative or substitute Executor, he or she will need to sign the acceptance documents and the Master will then issue fresh Letters of Executorship to that person, who then carries on with the administration.

If the Will does not make provision for an alternative Executor, or there was no Will (i.e. the deceased died Intestate) the beneficiaries under the Will (or under the Intestate Succession Act) would need to nominate a new Executor, the appointment of whom they would all need to agree on.

Normally the person nominated as Executor in a Will is exempted from giving security to the Master for his or her appointment. In the case of an Intestate Estate, things may become complicated if the nominated Executor is not a parent, spouse of child of the deceased, because the Master will then request security from the nominee to the value of the assets in the estate. This may be done by way of a Bond of Security passed over property or by a specific type of short term insurance policy taken out by the new Executor, which has a significant cost implication.

The way to avoid a hold-up in the administration process on the death of an Executor, is to provide in your Will for more than one Executor, or for an alternative Executor. Whether or not you have appointed an alternative in your Will, you should also consider the health and age of your nominated Executor(s), and, if needs be, contact our Estate and Trust Department to amend your Will.