How much it costs to die in South Africa

 ·23 May 2024

Death is an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but there are several costs that one and their beneficiaries should know about.

Losing a loved one leaves many in a state of sorrow, and knowing about the costs associated with death can reduce the risk of further stress.

Christel Botha, Manager at Alexforbes Fiduciary Services, told BusinessTech that expenses vary per estate and depend on the assets going into the estate, as well as the liabilities (debts) that the deceased incurred during their lifetime.

Expenses to be considered include the following:

Funeral expenses 

These generally cost between R15,000 and R30,000 but could still cost more.

“If there is a funeral policy with no beneficiary, the proceeds may be payable to the estate only,” said   Botha.

“This will cause a delay in payment as the estate may take some weeks to be reported and Letters of Executorship issued by the Master.”

“As such, the estate’s late bank account will only be opened at a later stage.”

Estate administration charges 

These include:

  • Executor fees charged at the legislated 3.5% (Plus VAT) on the value of all assets forming part of the deceased estate.

  • Estate Duty charged at 20% for estates larger than R3.5 million and 25% for estates above R30 million

  • Estate duty will also be dependent on whether you are leaving your estate (or part thereof) to your spouse

Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax is payable on gains made on assets sold or transferred to beneficiaries but not on the first R300,000 at death.

“Only 40% of the balance of the gain is included in the capital gains tax calculation, and this is then taxed at the deceased’s tax rate,” said Botha.

This varies depending on who the assets are left to and the type of asset.

Income tax

All income tax owed to SARS at the time of death must be paid, and the taxman will conduct an audit to ensure that all the deceased’s taxes are correct.

SARS will then issue a tax compliance certificate, allowing the executor to finalise the estate.

Master’s fees

The fee is R600 for estates worth less than R400,000. It is then calculated on a sliding scale up to R7,000.

Fee on income earned by the estate

The executor can charge 6% plus VAT on any income earned after death while the estate is finalised, which includes rental income, interest, dividends, and trading or farming income.

Advertising costs

Two advertisements are placed in a deceased estate. Although costs depend on the publication, they tend to be around R1,000.

Bank charges

The executor must open an estate bank account, and the costs depend on the banking institution used.

Postage and petties

“The executor is allowed to charge postage and petties of R260 plus VAT,” said Botha.

“Any courier charges will not form part of your postage and petties and will be charged to the estate as an additional administration cost.”

Professional fees

These fees will be needed to pay professionals such as accountants, conveyancers, or tax consultants to assist the executor with specific needs.

Estate agent’s commission

This fee can be negotiated but is usually around 7.5% of the sale of a property.

Maintenance of estate assets

These costs are needed to maintain assets while the estate is being wound up.

Valuation and appraisal costs

This will have to be required by the Master.

Transfer costs

This is payable to a conveyancing attorney for property transfers from the deceased’s estate.

However, property transfers to beneficiaries are exempt from the transfer duty payable to SARS.

Rates and taxes

“Five months’ rates and taxes are payable in advance to the municipality to obtain clearance figures from the municipality involved,” said Botha.

Bond cancellation costs

This is payable to an attorney when the bond account has been closed and cancelled with the Deeds Office.

Claims against the estate

This includes hospital bills, bonds, loan accounts, credit cards, clothing accounts, etc.

Donations tax

“20% on donations over R100 000 per year if the donor has not paid the donations tax at the time of death.”

“Donations to spouses do not attract donations tax, and some donations made in the event of death are excluded.”


To help illustrate the cost of dying, Botha provided us with an example of someone passing away with the following:

  • Fixed property sold for R2.5 million (with no outstanding bond)
  • Life insurance payable to the estate worth R1 million.
  • Other assets: Investments, cash in the bank, household effects, vehicles etc, worth R1.5 million.
  • Funeral was paid for by a family member who now has a claim against the estate
  • Estate Duty calculation will depend on who the beneficiaries of the deceased are (as such, not included in the calculation)

With all these assumptions, one’s death comes out to an estimated value of R499,975 – 10% of the estate’s worth.

The highest hypothetical costs would be the estate agent commission (R215,625) and the executor remuneration (R175,000).

(Source: Alexforbes)

Read: South Africa kisses the ‘next generation of doctors’ goodbye – with close to 10,000 already out the door

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter