Answer to a question from a reader

Who will inherit the house: the person nominated as the beneficiary or the owner's child?

The short answer

If the owner nominates an heir in their will, that person will become the legal owner of the house.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My aunt is the legal owner of her RDP house. Although she has a biological child, she listed me as a beneficiary in her RDP application. What will happen when my aunt passes away? Will I be the legal owner or can her child contest this and eventually become the legal owner?

The long answer

When someone applies for an RDP house, they must either be married or living with a partner, or single but have dependents. The names of these dependents are listed in the application by the municipality. The confusion about who is the beneficiary of the house arises because the dependents listed in the original application are not actually beneficiaries as such. The owner is actually the beneficiary of the RDP house. But the dependents listed in the application generally do stand to inherit the house when the owner dies, because they are often his or her blood relatives, and the government’s policy is that RDP houses should stay in the family. 

If the owner makes a will nominating someone as their heir, that person will become the legal owner of the house. But if the owner does not make a will, they are said to have died intestate, and the Intestate Succession Act of 1987 will apply in this way: if there is a surviving spouse and children, the property will be left to him/her and their children. If there is no surviving spouse, the children will inherit, followed by more distant relatives. 

In your case, if your aunt passes away without making a will, her biological child will inherit the house. If she makes a will nominating you as her heir, you will inherit the house. If she nominates both you and her child as her heirs, you would both inherit the house. 

If your aunt wants to leave the house to you and needs help making a will, she could apply to Legal Aid for assistance. Legal Aid is a means-tested organisation which means that if they find that your aunt cannot afford a lawyer, they must help her. These are their contact details:

0800 110 110 (Monday to Friday 7AM - 7PM) 

079 835 7179 (Please Call Me)

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Sept. 10, 2021, 10:07 a.m.

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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.