Ex-wife fails to convince court that she’s entitled to late husband’s estate

File Photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

File Photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 13, 2023


The Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha has ruled against an ex-wife who sought a share from her late ex-husband's estate, despite him being married to another woman with shared businesses.

The court found that the massed will, executed by the deceased and his first wife in 1988, was null and void due to the dissolution of their joint estate.

The ex-wife and the deceased were married in community of property in 1978. In 1988, they executed a massed will that stipulated the surviving spouse as the sole beneficiary of the estate upon the other's death.

However, in 2003, the couple divorced and entered into a settlement agreement regarding the division of their joint estate.

During the deceased's second marriage, he developed businesses and acquired a property in Kokstad.

He passed away in 2016, thirteen years after his divorce from his first wife. He left behind six children, three from his first marriage and three from his second marriage.

Following the burial, the deceased's second wife approached the Master of the High Court and obtained letters of authority to administer the estate, claiming there was no will.

Simultaneously, the ex-wife sought and obtained letters of executorship from Standard Executors and Trustees Limited (SETL), presenting a copy of the massed will dated 11 March 1988.

SETL subsequently wrote to the second wife, requesting the deceased's assets and relevant documents based on their appointment as executors.

According to the Master of the High Court's report, SETL had been nominated in the massed will as the executors of the estate, and they were officially appointed on 8 March 2018.

However, both SETL and the ex-wife's attempts to obtain asset details and documents from the second wife were unsuccessful.

The second wife contested the validity of the massed will, applying to the high court to nullify it and remove the ex-wife as executrix of the estate.

She argued that there were no joint assets or estate shared with the ex-wife, as their joint estate had been dissolved during the divorce proceedings in 2003 through a deed of settlement that addressed the distribution and sharing of assets.

Acting Judge Mvuzo Notyesi, upon reviewing the case, concurred with the second wife's argument, stating that the dissolution of the joint estate and asset distribution rendered the massed will null and void.

He further highlighted that the will contained contradictions, vagueness, and ambiguities, supporting its invalidation.

Consequently, Notyesi ordered the nullification of the massed will and the removal of the executor appointed under it.

In conclusion, the Eastern Cape High Court ruled against the ex-wife's claim on her late ex-husband's estate, deeming the massed will invalid due to the dissolution of the joint estate and its inherent inconsistencies.