When a person passes away, their estate must be administered and distributed to their beneficiaries. The process of estate administration is overseen by the Master of the High Court, a judicial officer appointed to perform various functions related to the administration of deceased estates, property of minors, and persons under curatorship. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the role of the Master of the High Court and their functions.
The master’s responsibilities
The Master’s Office is responsible for the supervision and administration of estates of deceased persons, property of minors, and persons under curatorship. The Master’s jurisdiction is determined by the ordinary residence of the deceased person, the minor or the person under curatorship, or the location of their property. In cases where there is more than one Master who could exercise jurisdiction, the Master who first exercised jurisdiction has the authority to supervise the estate.
The Master’s primary role is to protect the interests of creditors, heirs, legatees, and other persons who have claims on the estate. The Master has extensive powers of supervision, ranging from the appointment of executors, tutors, and curators, to decisions regarding the alienation of assets and the adjudication of claims made against estates. The Master also has the power to compel executors, tutors, and curators to lodge vouchers in support of their account or to perform any duty imposed on them by or under the law.
In addition to their role in estate administration, the Master is also concerned with the interest of the fiscus in respect of estate duty. The Master’s Office is responsible for filing completed information regarding every estate within its jurisdiction, and any person may inspect any document and make or obtain a copy or an extract on payment of the fees prescribed in respect thereof.
The Master’s Offices
The Master’s Office is staffed by various members who have specific duties assigned to them. Executors and those who may have dealings with the Master’s Office are advised to seek out the appropriate official and not request an immediate interview with the Master. The Master is the ultimate authority in the office and any matter may be referred to them for their decision.
The Master of the High Court plays a critical role in the administration of deceased estates, property of minors, and persons under curatorship. They are tasked to ensure that the interests of all parties are protected and that the estate is administered efficiently and effectively. The Master’s Office is an essential component of the South African legal system, and its functions are crucial to maintaining the integrity of the system.