A Will was left by the Deceased but the original cannot be found...a brief introduction

In South Africa, when a person dies, his or her Estate must be reported to the Master of the High Court. If the deceased had a Will or Wills, all originals thereof must also be turned over to the Master.

What happens when the original is not available.

In terms of law, the Master may accept a duplicate original of the Will or any document but if it believes it or any document to be invalid for any reason, may refuse to accept it, until a Court has determined otherwise.

Briefly, in the South African case of Ex Parte Erasmus vs Erasmus, the Court examined whether a photocopy of the Will was a duplicate original.

In the circumstances of the above case, the Master had rejected a photocopy of the Deceased's Will. The Court considered that as the Master never challenged the validity of the photocopy of the particular Will nor determined that the Will may not reflect the last wishes of the particular Deceased but had instead relied on general academic opinion to reject it, the Master should accept the Will in these circumstances as a duplicate original.

Each case is different and the Court may come to a different conclusion depending on the circumstances of your situation. The above is information and is not advice. Please consult an Attorney for a detailed analysis of your particular circumstances and possible resolution thereof. Ismail Ayob and Partners practice in the area of Deceased Estates and can assist.