Answer to a question from a reader

Do my siblings have claim to the house left to me and our late mother by our late grandmother?

The short answer

It depends on whether your mother left a will. You still have the 50% share left by your grandmother.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

In my late grandmother's will, her house was left to me and my mother. Unfortunately, my mother died a few months ago and now my siblings want to stay in the house, claiming that it's their right because it's their grandmother's house. The municipal letter is registered under my name. My siblings also want a share of the money I get from the tenant that I use to pay municipal bills. What can I do?

The long answer

You don’t say whether your mother left a will herself. If she did leave a will and named you as her heir, you would be the legal owner of the house. But if your mother died without making a will, it may be more complicated. You are still your grandmother’s heir to half the house, as she left the house to both you and your mother in her will. But if your mother died intestate (that is, without making a will), it may be that the law of intestate succession applies to her half of the house. 

Intestate succession means that blood relatives inherit in the following order: 

  • The spouse/s of the deceased

  • The descendants of the deceased 

In this case, it may be that your mother’s half of the house would be divided equally between all the siblings. 

When someone dies, their estate must be administered by an Executor appointed by the Master of the High Court if the estate is worth more than R250,000, or by a Representative nominated by the family and given a Letter of Authority by the court, if the estate is worth less than R250,000.

The Representative has to see to it that all the debts of your mother are paid. After that, the property is transferred to the heirs; you and your siblings. 

The property can only be sold with the written permission of all the heirs, or if there isn’t enough cash in the estate to pay all the debts. In that case, the Representative must first pay off the debts with the money from the sale of the house and then distribute what remains to the heirs.

If the property was to be sold, the Representative would have to get permission from the Master of the High Court (who gives the Letter of Authority) to sell the property. The Representative would have to show him documents such as the signed permission of all the heirs to sell the property and a signed offer to purchase from a buyer. The Master must be satisfied that the property is being sold at market value, and that all the rightful heirs and what they would inherit have been identified.

You may want to consult a lawyer to advise you how best to approach this. 

As the municipal account is registered in your name, I don’t think your siblings would have any right to demand a share of the money paid by the tenant towards the municipal bills. You may want to take legal advice on this too.

You could contact Legal Aid for assistance. It is a means-tested government organisation that must help people who can’t afford a lawyer:

Legal Aid Advice Line (Toll-free): 0800 110 110

Legal Aid Ethics Hotline: 0800 153 728

Please-Call-Me number: 079 835 7179

You could also ask the Legal Resources Centre for advice:


Johannesburg: 011 038 9709

Cape Town: 021 879 2398

Makhanda: 046 622 9230

Wishing you the best,

Answered on July 22, 2021, 11:16 a.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.