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I came across this article in the Personal Finance which was part of the Independent on Saturday of 9 June 2018 written by the Feduciary Institute of South Africa

Tasks of an executorAssets in more than one country

At a presentation I gave in 2015, one of the attendees said that those who have assets in South Africa and another country. must have 2 wills. One for the assets abroad and the other for SA (or your home country’s) assets.  It is also necessary that each will must clearly state that neither can negate the other irrespective of the dates on which they were drawn up.  When I did another presentation in September 2016 another person said that their lawyer had said that this was unnecessary. I did a search on the internet but could not get confirmation either way. I consulted a friend who is also a lawyer working as a Legal Advisor who replied to my query in this regard as follows:

I don’t think it is imperative to have a will in each country where one’s assets are held.

As  I recall  it,”assets” includes  your worldwide assets. Again, it is probably good practice to have separate wills in the countries were one’s assets are located. This is because one would need a local person to attend to certain matters A South African executor would have to appoint agents in other countries , so it may be better to have someone in that country appointed as one’s executor.

Identity Numbers of Witnesses to your Signature on your Will

At the presentation in September 2016, an attendee said that she had been informed that it is now required that the ID numbers of the witnesses to a Will. This surprised many of us so I asked about this as well and the Legal Advisor replied thus:

“I am not aware of  and doubt that there is any requirement for ID numbers of witnesses. It is probably a good practice though in case the witnesses need to be identified”

Remember that witnesses are witnessing your signature and not your Will, they must be older than 14 years and NOT beneficiaries of your estate, you must sign in their presence and initial every page, except the final page on which the signatures appear in full.

Power of Attorney

If a person has Power of Attorney (PoA) for someone, that PoA becomes null and void on the death of the one who granted PoA. After death, it is the Executor who finalises the finances and assets. i.e. acts as if with PoA

Informing the family

Just a reminder: on page 25 of the book, it is stated that it is the responsibility of the police to inform a family of the death of a family member in a car accident or other public death situation. Today, with everyone having cell phones, it is tempting to check to whom the last call was made on a victim’s phone and call that no. I know of an instance when that happened and fortunately the no. belonged to his brother. Imagine if it had been a friend or acquaintance – they learn of the death before the family. Your only responsibility in this situation is to contact the police                                    and be ready to give them any relevant information

Letter of Executorship

When the nominated Executor applies for his/her Letter of Executorship, the Master of the High Court wants a bank-stamped copy of the deceased’s bank account AS AT THE DAY OF DEATH. Why? To ensure that no money has been taken out after the date of death. Yes, it might grow through interest but it must not be reduced by withdrawals.

When a person dies ALL of their financial facilities are immediately frozen, including joint accounts and use of any account after their death (by deliberately not informing the bank etc) could be constituted as fraud. This is one of the reasons couples should each have their own account so as not to be left destitute after a partner’s death, which has happened more often than one realises. The other problem which arises is that most places eg funeral homes require payment upfront so the family or friend has to have cash available. This applies even if the person’s Will states that all costs are to be paid through the estate. The person who pays any costs after a death may then make claim from the estate.

Selecting an Undertaker – You have the right to choose your own

important that one chooses the undertaker who suits them, financially and in approach to the family. There have been circumstances where a person died in hospital and the family, who were from out of town and did not know the local undertakers, were told by the hospital that Undertaker X will make all the necessary arrangements. In the particular instance of which I am aware Undertaker X happens to be the most expensive. If you are in this situation, ask for time to decide whether this is the undertaker you would like to use.

Retain all personal records of a deceased person

Remember, when a person dies it is very important to retain their personal records as you never know when they may be needed. I know a young man who is battling with Home affairs to get his surname corrected on his ID and he has none of his parents’ records, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates etc. The family disposed of everything when they died.

a) I iterate what is in the book – check the details on the Death Certificate very carefully. I have personal experience where my widowed mother-in-law’s certificate came back from the Department of Home Affairs giving her Marital Status as ‘Married’. This was not picked up by either the Undertaker, who had submitted her late husband’s death certificate with the application for hers, nor by ourselves. It was the Executor who noticed it when he was submitting his application for a Letter of Executorship.

b)  The person or Undertaker who submits the request for the Death Certificate is the only one who may collect it and also is the one who has to make application for a corrected one if required. There will be a charge by the Department of Home Affairs for a new certificate.

Eco coffins

In Section 3, page 43, readers are encouraged to use Eco-coffins where possible. At the time the only information that I could find was that of the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Council of Churches. I recently did a search and have learnt that there are more possibilities. The factory for making these coffins is situated in Cedara near Howick in KZN  The exciting part is that Invasive Alien Plants are used – double environmental  steps taken.

Update on Estate Value and Executor vs Administrator

There has been an increase in the value of an Estate which does not need an Executor but the Will can be administered by an Administrator, appointed by the Master of the High Court. This is now R250 000, up from R125 000. This is very helpful because it means that an Estate of the value up to R250 000 does not require detailed listing of assets, advertising in the Classifieds for creditors to be given an opportunity to claim from the Estate nor a final Liquidation and Distribution Account. Whatever the size of the Estate, it is always valuable to have the input of a lawyer to assist a family member or friend who has been appointed the Executor.

Benficiaries approval

While currently executing a Will we have learned that there are certain situations in which the beneficiaries are required to approve an action by the Executor. When my husband went to apply for a Letter of Executorship he was told that the Durban Master could not issue this unless the Master in Mahikeng, North-West Province sent a letter of Transfer of Jurisdiction. But, the beneficiaries had to sign letters of approval for this action. A second situation where the beneficiaries need to be consulted and give approval is the sale of major assets such as a house even if the will states that these assets are to be sold. Once an offer has been received and before transfer can take place, the beneficiaries have to approve the price and process.  Therefore, ensure that full contact details of your beneficiaries are available for the Executor

Autopsy (also known as a post mortem) – for many people this brings fear and concern that their loved will be maimed. This is definitely not the case. With the assistance of Dr Christa Hattingh of the KZN Department of Forensic Health, I put together 10 pages explaining the what, why and how of an autopsy. Go to the Home page of this site and buy my book, as an e-book or in hard copy for just R90.

The National Department of Health is responsible for the regulation of autopsies (or post mortems as they are referred to in the National Health Act No. 61 of 2003). This can be found at

Organ and Tissue donation after death – Did you know that your family has the final say on the donation of your organs even if you have confirmed that it is your wish for this to be done? This was something that really amazed me. A very useful source is…/questions/

Is it your wish to donate your body to science? Make sure that your family knows this as they cannot prevent it being done. This is the difference between organ & tissue donation and donating your body. For my book I used this easy to understand website of the University of Pretoria

If you enjoy travelling outside of your home country, make sure you clearly understand what happens should you die in another country. This may not be a pleasant idea when you are planning to enjoy a wonderful holiday, but it does happen. Returning a body to its home country is a very expensive exercise but then there are also regulations for the transportation of ashes. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation have a helpful


Death certificates – there is a difference between a Notification of Death Certificate and the official Death Certificate itself. The first is the certificate signed by the doctor who has pronounced the death and the other is issued by the Department of Home Affairs. For more information go to

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