When it comes to estates there are different types of fraud such as: 

Identity theft to obtain a false death certificate while you are still alive, or identity theft after your death by imposters pretending to be your beneficiaries or spouse.

Retirement funds and life policies normally have nominated beneficiaries and don’t form part of the administration of the Executor. The proceeds from these policies are normally paid directly to the beneficiaries.

Retirement funds and life policies are an easy target for fraudsters. They could make a claim against the fund, by providing the fund with a fraudulent marriage certificate in order to claim a share in terms of the Matrimonial Property Act. Fraudulent acts such as faking Letters of Executorship can also occur. Imposters who create fraudulent Letters of Executorship can easily close and open bank accounts on behalf of the deceased. By doing this they potentially have full power of attorney to act on behalf of the deceased.

A substantial percentage of fraud involves employees who work at the funds, who have access to all accounts and details. Previously there were syndicates who specialised in this type of fraud.

How to prevent Fraud on Deceased Estates

  • Ensure you have a Will drafted with the proper details of all beneficiaries and heirs. Keep your Will and personal documents in a safe where access is limited to you or your next of kin.
  • Financial planners should always have measures in place to ensure that the control and protection of their client’s information is in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act. Next of kin and beneficiary details must also be kept on record.
  • The nominated Executor should register the death at the Master of High Court within the given timeframe, which is 14 days from the passing of the person.
  • Executors and administrators must ensure they have attended to the closure of all accounts of the deceased in order to prevent any fraudulent activities on active bank accounts.
  • Be on the lookout for strange requests on emails or text messages. It is easy for fraudsters to hack into your computer or phone to get personal information.


Jacomi Swart

Assistant Manager: Deceased Estates, Johannesburg