What if the seller of a property dies before transfer?

When you buy a house quite a few things must happen at the appointed time for the transaction to run smoothly.

As a buyer, you would have either given notice at a rental property or sold the home where you live now. The evacuation date at your current home is likely to coincide with your occupation date of the new property. You would have cancelled services and booked the movers. If everything is going according to plan, the transaction should take about three months from signing of the sales agreement to transfer.

But what if the owner and seller of the new property dies before signing the transfer documents?

This is the legal position

The sales agreement remains in force when a seller dies. But the process comes to a halt until an executor for the deceased estate has been appointed by the Master of the High Court.

Once appointed, the executor must make sure that the estate is solvent and that the sale agreement is valid and binding. The executor must sign a new Power of Attorney, endorsed by the Master of the High Court, for the transferring attorneys so they can continue with the conveyancing process.

If the matter has already been lodged at the Deeds Office, the attorneys will need to resubmit the documents with the new Power of Attorney.

Do the heirs have a say?

The heirs only need to consent to the sale of a property if there is no valid sales agreement in place.

If there is a valid sales agreement and the heirs object to the sale, then the buyer may have to enforce the sales agreement in court.

How long until the property is transferred

Although the sales agreement remains in force, the seller’s death will stop the proceedings. It usually takes about four to eight weeks after the estate has been reported to the Master’s Office before the Master issues his Letters of Executorship. Once the executor has been appointed and the transfer process is underway again, there should be no further delays.

What if the buyer dies?

If the buyer financed the property via a mortgage, the bank would likely withdraw its guarantee as the buyer would no longer be able to repay the loan. Then the sale would be cancelled. Only in a cash transaction would the buyer’s estate be obliged to pay the purchase price and proceed with the transfer.

Our conveyancing practice can assist you with any queries in connection with your property transfer.