Siblings in legal row over family home
Durban – Cordial relations between a senior University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer and her siblings ended after she allegedly received ownership of their family home in Phoenix, north of Durban, without their knowledge.
The dispute over the house, which was previously owned by their now deceased parents, is said to be worth about R1.5 million.
Anisha Ramsaroop appeared at Verulam Magistrate’s Court last month regarding a charge related to the completion of an estate inventory.
Ramsaroop’s four siblings jointly obtained a high court interdict by consent in September, preventing Ramsaroop and her husband Rakesh from pledging or selling the home.
The siblings also served summons on the couple, demanding the purchase and sale and agreement between their parents and Ramsaroop be set aside so that the “intestate” (for persons without a will) succession of the property could take effect.
In court documents, the siblings said they all lived as “one happy” family until May 2017.
That’s when the couple called a family meeting, after their mother’s death a month earlier, to inform them ownership of the house had been transferred to the couple in October 2012 and they wouldn’t receive a “single cent”.
Churamani Manilall deposed an affidavit on behalf of the siblings. Manilall said they were “shocked” because their parents had never informed them about the sale, and the transfer took place on October 31, 2012, when their father died on September 27, 2012.
Ramsaroop then referred her siblings to her attorney, June Debba.
Manilall’s husband also communicated with attorney Dan Steenkamp from the law firm Debba, engaged as agents for the transfer.
The timing of the transfer was a contentious issue for Manilall.
Steenkamp said Debba never informed him about the death, otherwise, he would have halted the transfer.
In an email Steenkamp sent to Debba and Manilall, an extract read: “The difficulty here is that the husband (Jankipersad Gangaram), the co-transferor, died a month prior to the transfer.
“This means that on his death, the power of attorney he granted in our favour to give transfer would have lapsed automatically.
“Technically, the transfer is invalid. Generally, such matters simply stand unless challenged.”
Rajesh Hiralall, the siblings’ attorney, requested various documents, including the purchase and sale agreement, in a December 2018 letter to Debba.
She refused and raised a few questions in response.
Manilall said a lack of funds hampered further legal action, but when she learnt in July the couple planned to transfer ownership to their sons, they launched their court action.
Debba said Ramsaroop unwittingly informed her about her father’s death after the transfer was completed.
Therefore, she didn’t advise Steenkamp.
“Anyhow, her (Ramsaroop) father had signed the agreement and transfer documents, including the power of attorney, during his lifetime.”
Debba said the siblings failed to provide proof that Ramsaroop intended to pass on ownership of the property.
In her affidavit to police, Debba inquired whether the siblings were only interested in the father’s half of the property because they didn’t query the mother’s half with the couple.
Debba said it was impossible to provide documents the siblings required because the five-year period during which attorneys retained records of finalised matters had expired.
Brian Dickinson, of the law firm Peacock, Liebenberg and Dickinson that now represents Ramsaroop, said Debba advised him that the parents signed the power of attorney to transfer in her presence, with the intention to hand ownership to his clients.
Dickinson said it has been established that the conveyancer appearing on Jankipersad’s behalf before the Registrar, lacked authority at the time, and that in no ways rendered the sale invalid.
“The siblings accept the sale occurred but failed to substantiate why the agreement should not be given effect to and why the property should devolve on the intestate heirs of the deceased parents.
“It appears that the plaintiffs have confused the issues of sale and registration of transfer.”
Dickinson said his clients had lived there for more than 25 years, and Debba was appointed by the heirs to report Jankipersad’s estate to the Master, and those who could afford to contribute to the costs thereof did so, including Ramsaroop.
He insisted that his clients were the lawful owners of the home and had signed documents prepared by Debba with no intention to defraud anyone.
“To suggest otherwise is baseless and slanderous as the property and furniture is owned by our clients.
“If the registration was cancelled because Jankipersad’s power of attorney died with him, the sale remains valid and binding. They were and are still entitled to receive transfer of the property.” | SUNDAY TRIBUNE