Answer to a question from a reader

What rights does a person with the power of attorney have over the rental of a house when the house owner dies while overseas?

The short answer

All powers of attorney lapse when the owner dies.

The long answer says that in simple terms a power of attorney is a written document in which a person appoints another person to act as an agent on his or her behalf, and in that way giving authority to the agent to perform certain acts or functions on his or her behalf. 

But all powers of an attorney stop automatically upon death. in an article on property in a deceased estate says that a power of attorney to register a transfer of property would automatically lapse upon the death of the owner.

When a person dies, the death must be reported within 14 days to the Master of the High Court. Anyone who oversees the deceased’s property or has the will can report the death by submitting a completed death notice to the Master. 

The Master will then appoint an Executor to wind up the deceased estate. Only the Executor (or the person given the letter of authority, if the estate is valued at less than R250,000) is allowed to manage the deceased’s assets. That is because the Executor must safeguard the heirs’ financial interests and wind up the deceased’s financial affairs.     

After paying the creditors and the legatees who have been left with specific assets, the executor of the landlord’s estate will take over the administration of the deceased estate and transfer the “residue” to the heirs. notes that in South Africa when the registered owner of immovable property has died, the property needs to be transferred to someone else. The transfer is managed by the Executor and the conveyancing attorney who liaises with the Deeds Office.

Usually, says, when tenants are renting the house of the deceased owner, they are not required to move out when the property owner dies. While the estate is still being wound up, the monthly rental fees should be paid to the Executor of the Estate.

Once the property has been transferred to the heirs, the lease should run its course before any tenants have to vacate the property. Usually, the heirs simply take over the lease and become the legal successors of the deceased owner of the house.

You can ask the Master of the High Court for more information on this helpline: 

Tel: 012 315 1207


In summary: Powers of attorney to manage a rental house become void when the homeowner dies. After the death has been reported to the Master of the High Court, someone will be appointed to make sure the deceased estate is distributed appropriately. If someone inherits the rental house, they just become the legal successors of the deceased owner. This will not cancel the lease and the tenants do not have to move out unless the lease is not renewed when it eventually lapses.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on July 9, 2023, 11:33 p.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.