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Court case on Master’s removal of executor

Levinson NO v Master of the High Court (Gauteng Division) and Others [2018] ZAGPJHC 503 

The applicant was the appointed executor in a deceased estate.  Her performance as such, as well as the performance of her appointed agent, left a lot to be desired.  Several liquidation and distribution (L&D) accounts were drawn and lodged with the Master’s Office over a period of four years, but several outstanding queries by the Master were still unresolved when the Master issued a notice of intention to remove the applicant as executor under section 54(1)(b)(v) of the Administration of Estates Act, 66 of 1965 (the Estates Act) on 4 August 2016, giving the applicant 30 days to approach the court to issue an order restraining the Master from doing so.  This was followed by a notice of removal on 5 September 2016.

In the meantime a different member of the Master’s Office staff issued a letter to the applicant on 29 August 2016 that she should ignore the notice of 4 August 2016.  On this basis an L&D account was lodged and lay open for inspection from 16 September 2016.  On 13 October 2016 another member of the Master’s Office staff issued a certificate that the L&D account had lain open free of objections.  The court held that the Master was functus officio after the removal and lacked competence to withdraw the removal.  Allowing the applicant to advertise the L&D could not change this.

Executors should take great care to ensure that they comply with the requirements of the Estates Act, as well as any lawful instruction issued by the Master.

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