Answer to a question from a reader

How can my brother and I register our late mother’s house into our names?

The short answer

First report the death to the Master of the High Court. The Master will appoint a representative to have the letter of authority to wind up the estate.

The long answer

The death must be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days. Once the death is reported, a deceased estate comes into being, and all the bank accounts and assets of the deceased estate are frozen. No one is allowed to withdraw money from the deceased’s bank accounts or deal with any of the assets like property without the permission of the Master. These are the documents you need to report the death to the Master:

  • Death Notice form – J294

  • The original or certified copy of the death certificate

  • The original or certified copy of the marriage certificate, or acceptable proof of being in a customary marriage or being a life partner (like children’s birth certificates) as requested by the Master

  • All original wills

  • Completed next of kin affidavit (J192 form)

  • Completed inventory (J243 form) showing all assets of the deceased

  • 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 executor declines the appointment

  • Acceptance of Master’s Direction (J155 form) or acceptance of trust as executor in duplicate completed by the person accepting appointment.

The Master will appoint a representative who has been nominated by the family to have the letter of authority to wind up the estate if the estate is worth less than R250,000. If the deceased estate is worth more than R250,000, the Master will appoint an executor to wind up the estate. Let’s assume for the purposes of this email that the Master will appoint a letter of authority. 

The representative with the letter of authority must open a new bank account in the name of “Estate of Late Mrs X” so that your mother’s bank account is closed and the bank must transfer any monies to the new “Estate Late Mrs X” bank account. The representative will need to provide the bank with the following documents:

  • Death Certificate

  • Deceased’s ID

  • Letter of Authority or Letter of Executorship

  • Appointed Representative’s or Executor’s ID

Winding up the estate means paying all the debts first, and then seeing that the rightful heirs inherit.

If you and your brother are the only rightful heirs, the person with the letter of authority will need to employ a Conveyancer or conveyancing attorney, which is a lawyer that specialises in property transfers, to transfer the house from your late mother’s name into the names of you and your brother at the Deeds Office. It is only a conveyancer that can do this work which involves working with the Deeds Office in terms of the Deeds Registries Act to make the transfer. Only after this transfer has been done by the conveyancer will you and your brother receive the Deeds of the house and be the legal owners of your mother’s house. Without being registered as the legal owners you will not be able to sell the house, or raise a loan on it or indeed sort out any problems that arise with the municipality.  

The fee for the conveyancer could be around R8,000 or more. 

You can contact the Master at your local court.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Nov. 24, 2023, 12:53 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.