Answer to a question from a reader

Can I claim my late partner's estate if we were not married but had kids together?

The short answer

Under the law of intestate succession, you can inherit as his life partner.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

The father of my children died. His mother and sister are also deceased. My kids and I are still staying in their house. Is there a way for me to inherit the house even though we were not married? Can I get a Letter of Authority?

The long answer

You need to report the death of your children’s father to the Master of the High Court. Every town in South Africa has a Master’s office at the court.

You need to find out if your children’s father has any surviving family, as two of the forms that you need to take to the Master to report his death involve his family. These are the Next of Kin Affidavit and the Nominations for Representative to receive the Letter of Authority. His family must sign the Next of Kin Affidavit and give their ID numbers, and agree on the person who should get the Letter of Authority in the Nominations form, by signing and giving their ID numbers. (These forms are all available from the Master’s office. The Letter of Appointment as Master’s Representative must be obtained from the Office of the Master.)

His family can agree to nominate you to be the representative with the Letter of Authority, if they trust you. If the children are the only next of kin, they can also nominate you, if they are over 18.

The letter of authority gives the representative the right and duty to wind up the deceased estate: that means the representative must pay all outstanding debts that the children’s father may have, and they must see that all the heirs receive what they are owed. The Letter of Authority does not give the representative the right to inherit anything.

But if he died without leaving a will, you and the children should inherit his property in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, as you were his life partner with whom he lived, and the mother of his children. 

This is the list of documents you need to submit to the Master’s Office:

  • Completed Death Notice (Afrikaans or English) form - J294;

  • Original or certified copy of the Death Certificate;

  • Original or certified copy of Marriage Certificate (if applicable) or acceptable proof of being a life partner (like children’s birth certificates) as requested by the Master;

  • All original wills and codicils or documents purporting to be such (if any);

  • Completed Next-of-Kin Affidavit  - J192 (if the deceased did not leave a valid will);

  • Completed Inventory (form - J243) showing all the assets of the deceased (Proof of the value of the assets must be provided)

  • List of creditors of deceased (if applicable);

  • Nominations by the heirs for the appointment of a Master’s representative in the case of an intestate estate or where no executor
    has been nominated in the will or the nominated executor declines the appointment;

  • Acceptance of Master’s Directions - J155 (English), completed and signed by the person as nominated above;

  • Certified copy of the ID of the person to be appointed as Master’s representative.

If you need further help and advice, you could ask the Black Sash, which is an organisation that gives free paralegal advice.

These are their contact details:

  • Black Sash

For free paralegal advice: 


Helpline: 072 66 33 739

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Sept. 19, 2022, 4:39 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.