The executor in a deceased estate steps into the shoes of the deceased and must then follow a well regulated process to finalise the financial affairs of the deceased and distribute his/her assets in accordance with the last valid will or the rules of intestate succession (i.e. where there is no valid will).
The executor has to follow a strict process prescribed by the Administration of Estates Act, 66 of 1965, and is obliged to account to the Master of the High Court for proper compliance with the process.
It is common for family members to be nominated as executor in a will but this may be extremely unwise. If you have any valuable assets or are a professional or business person, it is worthwhile to rather nominate a professional. A wide variety of legal issues may impact on the process and the speed with which a deceased estate can be administered.