Who Should You Nominate As Your Executor & How Much Can They Charge To Wind Up Your Estate?

When you pass away someone needs to pay off all your outstanding debts, square off any tax owing to the Government, as well as distribute your assets in accordance with your Will. An executor is basically anyone who winds up your Estate in line with the wishes of your Will.

Who should you nominate as your executor?

The choice is yours, but in this blog post, we highlight a couple of problems with picking any old person as your executor.

The Master of the High Court supervises the process of administrating deceased Estates. By law, the Master must appoint an executor for each deceased Estate (unless the value of the estate is under R200,000 in which case the Master will make a call).

Once appointed by the Master, the executor gets issued a letter of executorship (basically the green light) and can get moving on dealing with your final wishes, for a fee recovered from your Estate.

Yip, the executor doesn’t work for free and there are charges you should be aware of.

How much is the executor allowed to charge?

  • A fixed amount you have negotiated with the executor in your Will
  • If no fixed amount has been negotiated, then the executor’s remuneration will be capped at 3,5% of your gross Estate excluding VAT (that will push it just over 4%)

What does gross Estate mean?

It’s the value of all your assets left to your Estate (excluding the liabilities).

Let’s assume the total value of your deceased Estate is R2,000 000, the executor will be able to charge 3,5% of that Estate which is R70,000. You don’t get to knock off the monies owing on assets like your home or your car.

It’s quite a chunk of change, isn’t it?

Think about everything that is left to your Estate. Your house, cars, investments, furniture and jewellery (life insurance proceeds with beneficiary nominations don’t form part of your Estate, nor do company benefits). The value can easily push into a good couple of million Rand, with your executor likely to pocket a cool R100,000.

A lot of people look at this “executor expense”, and think to themselves it would be more cost effective to nominate a family member or friend and save the 3,5% fee.

On paper that makes financial sense. In reality, it’s better to pay a professional to get the work done.

Here’s the reason why.

Winding up an Estate is a tricky business, and if you haven’t had any experience in doing it before, you might come unstuck. The executor is also personally liable for the work they do, so if they make a mistake it could end up hitting them in their own pocket. If they get the calculation wrong or forget to give the Government their share, they will literally need to pick up the bill themselves.

If you don’t have any experience in winding up an Estate, how would you feel about being nominated? A little apprehensive might be an understatement!

In most cases, when family or friends with no experience in winding up an Estate are nominated as an executor, it’s completely overwhelming and they end up having to hand the work over to a professional like an attorney who is likely to insist on charging the legislated 3,5%.

Are executors fees negotiable?

Yes, they are, but the value of your Estate will be the deciding factor.

If you have a massive Estate, then naturally you have some bargaining power. Imagine walking into an attorney’s office and chatting about an Estate of R10,000 000. At 3,5% the executor would be entitled to R350,000. You would be well within your rights to negotiate a better rate. If you have a smaller Estate, then, unfortunately, you don’t have that much leverage.

Most larger financial institutions like banks will draft your Will for “free”. Will drafting isn’t where the real money is for them. In fact, they basically work off a computer-generated template that spits out a Will once all the relevant information has been added.

The money is in winding up the Estate and charging an executor’s fee.

It’s at the point of drafting your Will that you need to negotiate the fees.

Each Will application has a section dedicated to nominating an executor. If you are dealing with a bank or large financial institution, ask if there is any wiggle room when it comes to the fees.

If they are not prepared to budge, you might want to shop around.

Before you go.

How liquid is your Estate? If you pass away today, do you have enough life cover in place?

Feel free to leave your comments.

Until next time.

The Wise About Life Team


  • Good Day

    My grandparents estate has not been winded up after their deaths. My grandmother passed away in 1990 and grandfather in 2004. They were married in community of property.

    Is Executors fees calculated based on the estate value at time of death or at the current value?
    Are there any penalties for winding both the estates after all these years?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Rajay, unfortunately, we can assist you with the question, because we do not have the license to discuss legal matters regarding estates property. We advice you contact a legal company that can provide you with the information.


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