Second wife wins battle of wills
The Eastern Cape High Court (Mthatha) has dismissed a woman's bid to take control of her deceased husband's estate after she tried to wrestle it from his second wife, reports News24.
According to court records, the woman, referred to as the first wife, was married to the deceased in June 1978 in a civil union and in community of property. The marriage produced three children.
In March 1988, the couple decided to have a massed will. A massed will is effected when two or more people join their assets together and form one estate, usually for the purpose of bequeathing assets to clearly defined heirs.
They divorced in June 2003 and entered into a settlement agreement, according to a judgment written by Acting Judge Mvuzo Notyesi.
According to court records, the deceased married his second wife in 1984 in a customary ceremony and three children were born from that union.
‘Consequent to the divorce of the deceased and the first wife in 2003, the second wife continued to be the only wife of the deceased. Their customary marriage was in community of property for the reason that there are no antenuptial agreements excluding community of property,’ said Notyesi.
After the man died in 2016, the second wife approached the Master of the High Court for a letter of executorship. She informed the Master that her husband has died intestate.
The Master provided her with a letter of authority and she started administering the estate.
However, the first wife, with the help of Standard Executors and Trustees Limited, sought and obtained a letter of executorship from the Master. She provided a copy of the massed will in order to get a copy of the letter, prompting the Master to cancel the authority provided to the second wife.
The first wife then wrote a letter to request a detailed list of the deceased's assets from his second wife.
She claimed that she was entitled to do so because there was no other will making the massed will void. But the second wife would not accede to the request. Instead, she responded that her husband had died intestate and successfully challenged the validity of the massed will.
In the judgment, notes News24, Notyesi said the first problem with the massed will was that the first wife and the deceased were divorced.
He added: ‘During the divorce, the first wife and the deceased dissolved their joint estate and distributed the assets in terms of the deed of settlement. That conduct, in my view, rendered their massed will null and void, for there were no consolidated assets for purposes of a massed will.’
He agreed with the first wife's submission that there were no assets in the joint estate as they were distributed during the divorce and said ‘ the will should be invalidated on this basis alone’.
Notyesi declared the massed will null and void, and ordered the Master of the High Court to remove the first wife as the executor of the deceased's estate.
The first wife was also issued with a costs order.
Article disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide final legal advice as facts and situations will differ from case to case, and therefore specific legal advice should be sought with a lawyer.