Answer to a question from a reader

Does my son have any claim to my late parents' house?

The short answer

No, but he will inherit part of your share of the house when you pass away.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My parents passed away without leaving a will. They had four children, but my older sister passed and her child passed away, so it is just me, my two brothers and our children who are left. My brothers have their own houses but, after our sister's death, my one brother and I moved into the house. My son and daughter also live with us.

My brother always reminds my son that he doesn't belong in this house and he has no say about anything in the house. This hurts me because our parents raised my son in this house. I had him when I was still in school and I left him with my parents when I moved out after I got married. 

Does my son have a right to the house?

The long answer

When someone dies without leaving a will, they are said to have died intestate, and their property and assets are inherited under the Intestate Succession Act. Under this Act, spouses and descendants are first in line to inherit. In your parents’ case, as there is no surviving spouse, their estate is inherited equally by their direct descendants, which are you and your two brothers. You and your brothers each inherit what is called a child’s share. If you had also died, but your son and daughter were still living, your child’s share would be divided equally between them. But your children do not have any legal rights to the house at this point. 

This must feel very wrong to you because your parents brought your son up in that house, but that is the order of inheritance under the Intestate Succession Act. 

Perhaps you could arrange a meeting between yourself and your brothers, explaining that you have asked for the meeting because it is very important to you that everyone in the family is on good terms and that you all take one another’s feelings into account. You could explain that you are feeling very hurt by the way your older brother speaks to your son, and that you are sure he would not want to hurt you deliberately. You could ask your brother to bear in mind that your son was brought up in the house and you could respectfully ask him not to keep telling your son he has no rights to the house, even though it is legally true. You would have to explain to your son too that he does not have a legal claim to the house presently, and that he too should speak politely to his uncle.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Sept. 23, 2021, 1:15 p.m.

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