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Tracking of estates online through the ICMS Master Web portal

TRACKING what’s happening with the estate of a deceased person has been made easier with a new online system.

Deceased estates are managed through the office of the Chief Master of the High Court. Estates are filed at 14 Masters’ Offices or 400 magistrate’s courts around the country, so finding with which office a particular estate is can be difficult. But now the Chief Master has set up public access to an online system for tracking the administration of estates and trusts.

“Masters’ Offices spend too much time drawing files and answering questions by members of the public relating to the contents of files. Sometimes it is not clear in which office a certain file is kept and this leads to frustrations and delay,” said Chief Master in Johannesburg, advocate Lester Basson.

“Steps have been taken to ease these problems by giving members of the public access to a public portal with information on the Master’s Office integrated case management system.  Information on the portal is updated daily. “Members of the public will now know exactly in which Master’s Office a deceased estate is being administered and have the reference number.” Basson said the system was a work in progress.

“More information will be available soon, for instance details of the executor, and accounts lodged and examined by the Master.” The system was initiated and guided by Tienie Cronje, a researcher of the South African Law Reform Commission.

“I couldn’t sleep one night,” said Cronje. So he took the forms required to report an estate and started working out what fields were needed in a database to generate the forms. Some of this information is now available to the public on the internet. Cronje said the system would help battle corruption as it made information more public and accessible. So for instance a family will easily be able to find out that a relative who died had a will which has been filed, and which office is dealing with it.

The Fiduciary Institute of SA (Fisa) welcomed the news. “This system will not only improve efficiencies, but will also assist executors in many other ways. A nominated executor will for instance be able to establish whether a later or earlier will was lodged with the Master’s office before he proceeds with the administration of the estate.  This will save time and prevent family members from having to attend unnecessary meetings during a very emotional time,” said Fisa chairman John Gibson.

The system focuses on the administration of deceased estates but as the Master’s Office also deals with trusts, liquidations and the Guardians’ Fund, Basson and Cronje hope information on these matters will be added as the system expands. Basson called it an innovative idea that would help speed up the administration of matters by reducing the amount of time staff spend dealing with public inquiries.

He is determined to provide the most efficient service possible. “You pay our salaries and we must deliver better for you,” said Basson. “I fight this inefficiency with a passion.”

Basson emphasised that the online system was a group effort which involved the office’s key partners, such as Legal Aid SA, Fisa, the SA Revenue Service and the Department of Home Affairs. Nationally the Master’s Offices deal with matters involving a total of about R2 billion to R3bn every month.

There are about 850 new matters filed every day. “Our estimate is that per hour there is R15m under our supervision,” said Basson. Speedy administration is thus crucial.

“The Master’s Office is an important institution for the sensible administration of estates in that we mean fast and efficient management of people’s inheritances,” said Basson.
“We say register as a user, and feel free to help yourselves.”

This is the online address of the public-access site: https://icmsweb.justice.gov.za/mastersinformation

The Master’s Office also has information available on the Department of Justice website, at www.justice.gov.za under “special interest areas – Master of the High Court”. This website also contains information on how matters are processed.