Answer to a question from a reader

Can my cousin, who has a Letter of Authority, sell my late grandmother's house?

The short answer

If your cousin is the Representative in a Letter of Authority, she does not become the owner of the property.

The whole question

My grandmother recently passed away and my family decided that my cousin should be the Representative in the Letter of Authority. If my cousin decides to sell my grandmother's house, is there anything I can do to stop her?

The long answer

As the Representative, your cousin is given the right and duty to administer the estate in terms of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. These rules lay down that the Representative must see to it that all the debts of the deceased are paid. After all the debts have been paid, the property that remains must be transferred to the rightful heirs.

The property can only be sold with the written permission of all the heirs or if there isn’t enough cash in the estate to pay all the debts. In that case, the Representative must first pay off the debts with the money from the sale of the house and then distribute what remains to the heirs.

If the property was to be sold, your cousin would have to get permission from the Master of the High Court (who gives the Letter of Authority) to sell the property. She would have to show him documents such as the signed permission of all the heirs to sell the property and a signed offer to purchase from a buyer. The Master must be satisfied that the property is being sold at market value, that all the rightful heirs have been identified and what they would inherit. 

If your grandmother left a will, the heirs would be named in the will. If she did not have a will, the law of Intestate Succession applies. This is based on blood relationship in the following order:

  • The spouse/s of the deceased

  • The descendants of the deceased 

Answered on Nov. 10, 2020, 11 a.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.