The Master of the High Court (‘the Master’) appoints someone called an ‘executor’ to administer a deceased estate where the estate is worth R250,000 or more. The Master issues what are called ‘Letters of Executorship’ in favour of the executor.
In a smaller estate the Master normally dispenses with the appointment of an executor and gives directions – via what are called ‘Letters of Authority’ – how the estate shall be liquidated and distributed.
If an executor fails to meet the standards expected of him or her, such person may be removed from office in terms of sections, 54(1) and 54(2) of the Administration of Deceased Estates Act 66 of 1965 as amended (the “Act”) either by a court or the Master. These may include a criminal conviction for offences contemplated in the Act, failing to perform satisfactorily any duty imposed upon him by or under the Act or to comply with any lawful request of the Master or if for any other reason the Court is satisfied that it is undesirable that he should act as executor of the estate concerned.
The Master needs to follow due process and set out why he intends to remove the executor from office and give him or her an opportunity to apply to court to restrain the Master from so removing him or her, on good cause shown.