The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) yesterday unveiled the Deceased Estates Online Registration System, as it moves to modernise its services.
Following pilots conducted in March, April and August, the online system will now be rolled out to the Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria and Thohoyandou Master’s Offices.
The online system, according to the DOJ, aims to improve access to Master’s Office services by allowing clients to lodge deceased estates digitally, thereby removing the need for physical visits to the offices, and reducing queues and travel costs for members of the public.
It allows registration of ordinary citizens, a company or organisation, as well as service providers, such as legal entities.
The DOJ adds that self-service and staff-assisted kiosks will be set up in all Master’s Offices to help clients report estates online.
Speaking at the launch event, Jabu Hlatshwayo, deputy director-general and head of ICT at the DOJ, said the system is a work in progress.
“For us, we are happy the system will assist in improving the efficiency of our processes in reducing the time for our public members to finalise deceased estates and getting those letters of authority and executorship.
“What is key with the system is that we tried, as much as we could, to apply the right security measures; for example, the usage of the OTP [one-time PIN] for individuals. We also verify your e-mail address and phone number.
“When it comes to an entity, the system does integrate with the CIPC[Companies and Intellectual Property Commission], in order to verify the authenticity of that company with the CIPC database.
“If your organisation doesn’t exist within the CIPC database, you won’t be able to even register on behalf of that company. The same applies with a service provider...there is also verification against the LPC [Legal Practice Council]. If you’re not registered with the LPC, the system will reject the registration.”
Hlatshwayo added that the system has the ability to send the Letter of Authority or Letter of Executorship through e-mail, or it can be downloaded via the portal.
Furthermore, Hlatshwayo stated the department will constantly look for ways to enhance the system, including the security features. “Cyber attackers are always looking for better methods to gain access to systems. For example, verification: attackers will make spoof websites that mimic or look like departmental websites. When you verify, please take note of the URL and ensure it is our website.
“We’re going to put in more security features to ensure the person can easily verify it is the actual website of the department.”
DOJ minister Ronald Lamola said the system will go a long way in bringing access to justice and Master’s services across the country.
“This system will be a catalyst to changing this environment; modernise it, digitise it and make it accessible to members of the public and professional bodies that play in the space of Master’s services.
“It has been a very lengthy journey to reach this milestone, but we’re excited we’ve reached it and there is now a foundation that has been laid in terms of digitising and modernising the entire justice system.
“What has been unveiled today is part of our vision, not only for the Master’s Office but…to modernise the entire administration of the justice system. I know attorneys and lawyers are paper-heavy and always prefer to have their briefcases, but the reality of the modern world demands that we change this mind-set, to enable members of the public to have access to a modernised system.”
Lamola noted the online system may encounter some glitches and there will be complaints, but said “that’s the nature of any system”.
“With trial and error, we are going to master the system. I believe in a year’s time, South Africans will believe this is the way to go. This will also happen with the other modernisation projects we’re involved in.
“We will not tire because of the challenges, technical glitches and so forth. As they do arise, we must be able to fix them and offer solutions so the system can withstand those challenges and be able to work for the benefit of the people of South Africa.”
DOJ deputy minister John Jeffery said while the system only currently reaches Master’s Offices in certain locations, by January 2024, all Master’s Offices will be covered.
“The new system will enable clients to transact Master’s services remotely, from anywhere and anytime, without the need to visitMaster’s Offices, thus reducing queues and travel costs for members of the public.
“We are hopeful that the new Deceased Estates Online Registration System will have a positive impact on all the identified challenges and will benefit the entire Master’s Office.”
The DOJ notes members of the public can send requests for support, or enquiries, to DojDEOnlineSupport@justice.gov.za.