What happens when a property inheritance is not wanted by the heir

Inheriting property is always slightly more complicated than inheriting such assets as shares or movable goods and there will occasionally be cases where the heir actually does not want to take ownership of a property assigned to him.

Discussing this situation recently, Anton du Plessis, Chief Executive of Vineyard Estates, said that where an heir inherits a number of assets, one of which is a property which may in fact be a burden, he is not allowed to accept part of the inheritance and reject the rest.

Du Plessis has recently come across a case where an heir inherited a property that had been passed on from generation to generation for decades. At the last count, there were over 32 owners of this particular piece of vacant land – some of whom were untraceable and others were living abroad.

“Getting all 32 co-owners to agree to sell – and then to sign a deed of sale – was almost impossible to achieve,” said du Plessis. “So the heir, if accepting the whole inheritance, would end up with a useless piece of land which attracted annual rates and taxes, and annual council charges for clearing of alien vegetation.”

South African law, said du Plessis, allows the beneficiary to reject the property he is supposed to inherit, which then reverts to the state, to the bank or to another heir, but it stipulates that every other item in the estate earmarked for that heir then has also to be rejected.

“The heir can then find himself in the very difficult situation of being able to inherit some assets which he really does want only if he also takes on those which he possibly cannot afford or does not want,” said du Plessis.

In the circumstances, said du Plessis, those drawing up wills in which property is included should be aware of this possible problem and discuss with the heir whether he really does wish to take on the fixed assets along with the other assets.

Article by: www.vineyardestates.co.za