Answer to a question from a reader

Who inherits my deceased husband’s house when his mother was made the beneficiary at the municipal office?

The short answer

You may need legal help. Here is why.

The whole question

My deceased husband bought a house before we got married. It's in his name only, and in the municipality office his mother is written as the beneficiary. He never changed that and there is no will. We were married in community of property.  What can I do?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking who inherits your deceased husband’s house when his mother was made the beneficiary at the municipal office, but before you got married in community of property, and he left no will.

When there is no will the Intestate Succession Act applies, in which the surviving spouse inherits the estate if there are no children. If there are children the spouse and the children will jointly inherit the estate. If there was no surviving spouse or descendants but only a surviving parent, the parent would inherit the estate.

If you marry in community of property, it means that all your assets are jointly owned. In the context of your husband’s death it means that your joint estate is dissolved and that after all debts have been settled, you as the surviving spouse inherit half of the estate. This is not an inheritance so no inheritance tax is paid. The other half goes to the deceased’s heirs.

So your question is how this works out if your mother-in-law is still named the beneficiary of the house at the municipality, as your husband did not change this after the two of you got married.

I think you need to get legal advice here to understand exactly how your mother-in-law’s claim and your claim are weighted against each other in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, and how best to settle it.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, Legal Aid, which is a means-tested body, must assist you.

You can contact them here:

Email: communications2@legal-aid.co.za
Legal Aid Advice Line (toll-free): 0800 110 110
Legal Aid Ethics Hotline: 0800 153 728
Please-Call-Me number: 079 835 7179

Answered on Feb. 5, 2020, 4:33 p.m.

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