Answer to a question from a reader

How can we get our late grandfather's children to agree that his house belongs to me and my sister?

The short answer

If they have valid claim to the house, you can ask a mediator to help your family come to an agreement.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I live in my late paternal grandfather's RDP house with my mother and siblings. My younger sister and I are the beneficiaries. We want to extend the house but we are afraid that my grandfather's other children will chase us out afterward. We went to the Master of the High Court for help and they said that all of my grandfather's children must fill out forms giving the RDP house to us. The problem is that we do not have a good relationship with them, so we wanted to know if there is any way around it. 

The long answer

If your late grandfather made a will in which he named you and your sister as his heirs, then you and your sister only need to transfer the house into your names to be the legal owners. But if he died without making a will, the Intestate Law of Succession applies. This means that blood relatives inherit in the following way:

  1. If there is a surviving wife the property will be left to her and their children. 

  2. To calculate a child’s share you divide the value of the estate by the number of children of the deceased, plus one (the surviving spouse). The law says that a spouse must receive R250,000 or a child’s share, whichever is the higher amount.

  3. If your father is no longer alive, you and your sister would inherit the child’s share that your father would have got, together with your late grandfather’s children.

When a house is inherited by more than one person, as in this case, it cannot be sold without written permission from all of you. This is why the Master of the High Court has said that everyone needs to sign. You also cannot be chased out of the house by your grandfather’s children.

Perhaps you can try and set up a meeting with your grandfather’s children chaired by somebody you all respect, and try to come to an agreement. 

If that doesn’t work, it might be worth considering mediation. This is a voluntary process where someone called a mediator helps parties involved in a legal dispute to find common ground. The Department of Justice explains it like this: 

“It is a process by which a mediator assists the parties in a legal dispute by:

  • Facilitating discussions between the parties.

  • Assisting them in identifying issues.

  • Exploring areas of compromise.

  • Generating options in an attempt to resolve the dispute without going to court.

You can approach the mediation clerk in the Civil Section at the Magistrate’s Court which has jurisdiction in respect of the dispute. The clerk will arrange for the parties to attend a meeting to assess whether their dispute can be submitted to a mediator. Mediation will be rendered at dedicated rooms identified as Therisano Centres.”

The problem is that while mediation is much cheaper than going to court, it is not a free service. 

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 Aug. 27, 2021, 1:16 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.