Answer to a question from a reader

Should I transfer the title deed of my late aunt's house from my name to her daughter-in-law's?

The short answer

If you are the legal owner of the house, you do not need to transfer it to her. Maybe you can work out a setup that benefits you both.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My name is on the title deed for my late aunt's RDP house. Her late son, my cousin, was married, and the wife wants me to transfer the house to her name because there was no will made. Who should get the house?

The long answer

If the house was still in your aunt's name when she died intestate (without a will), her son would have inherited it as her closest relative. When your aunt's son died, and if he too died without leaving a will, his wife would be entitled to 50% of the estate because of being married in community of property, and the other 50% would be divided between any children they might have, according to the Intestate Succession Act of 1987. If they had no children, the other 50% would be inherited by the next closest relative, which might be her nephew – you. 

But if the title deed of the house is indeed in your name, you are the legal owner of the house, and you do not need to transfer it to your cousin’s wife. 

You might not wish to kick the wife out of the house that she and your cousin had been living in, though, if she had no other place to go. You might consider whether there are alternative arrangements that could be made. 

If she is living in it now, you would in any case not be able to evict her without a court order. No one in South Africa can be evicted without a court order. This is under the PIE Act of 1998 (Prevention of Illegal Evictions and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act).

You would have to inform your late cousin’s wife that you are seeking a court order to evict her, and you would have to give her a copy of the date of the court hearing. Both you and she would have to attend the court hearing to put your own sides of the story. The municipality must also attend to say whether it can provide alternative accommodation if the eviction order is granted. The court must take into account how long she has lived there, how old she is, whether there are children living there too and how they will be affected by an eviction. The court must feel that an eviction is fair and right in the circumstances. 

So perhaps a good first step would be to have a meeting with your late cousin’s wife, and see if you can’t arrive at a solution that works for you both.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on May 15, 2024, 1:06 p.m.

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