Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am living in Canada and I'm unsure of how the law in Jamaica works. I grew up in a family home with my grandma, aunt, uncle, my dad, and two cousins. I migrated to Canada and I fixed up the house. The house was in my grandma's name and she died many years ago. My aunt went and put the house in her name without anyone's knowledge. My uncle also died, leaving his two kids living there. My aunt treated them badly. My aunt died last year and her daughter, who had lived elsewhere with her dad since she was a baby, came to take over the house, telling my cousins who have lived there over 33 years, to leave, as she claimed the title is in her mom's name. I spent millions to renovate the family home and I have no intention of going back there, but it hurts that she is trying to make my cousins leave. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
Your letter has made me very sad, in that family members can become unfeeling and act in disgracefully unlawful ways just to get their hands on properties they are not entitled to at all, or towards which they can only claim a percentage (small or otherwise). This seems to be the case with your family.
You said that the house was in your grandmother's name, but did not say whether it was registered in her name only or whether she held a common-law title. However, you relate that your aunt, who I surmise was your grandmother's daughter, placed the property in her name without the knowledge of her siblings — your father and uncle. This was palpably wrong on her part, as if they were all your grandma's children, then they were all entitled to share the property, which was her estate, including the children of any sibling who died. All the siblings — and if dead their surviving children — are in law entitled to share such an estate equally.
Your grandmother's death should have been reported to the Administrator General's (AG)office, as she seems to have died without a will. Application for the appointment of an administrator or administratrix of the estate should have been made either by the AG's office or a family member (one or two) with the AG's consent. This was clearly not done. Your aunt placing the property in her name, in the way related by you, would make it invalid, and this could have been overturned by an application in court — that is the Family Court for the parish the home is situated, or to the Supreme Court, depending on the value of the property. One wonder's how your aunt claimed the property as hers. The documents she relied on must be ascertained and they must have contained false statements.
It also seems that no application has been made by your cousin to administer her mother's estate in any court, or if any has been filed, it has not yet been completed. This then would be an ideal time to take up the entire issue relating to your cousin's claim of the property being in her mother's name. You and your cousins must file proceedings in court, and I would suggest, in the Supreme Court. You would have your records, letters and statements relating to the renovations you caused to be done to the premises and property and the receipts of your payments which you should use to support your claim. Part of your claim, which should be in your name and those of your cousins, must also be an injunction to stop her from ejecting them from the premises, at least until the case is resolved. The main claims must of course relate to her mother's wrongful and fraudulent act in putting your grandmother's property in her name, without the knowledge of her siblings who also resided in the home with her. In addition, you must also use in your claim, the fact of your expenditure in renovating the premises, and that neither your aunt or her daughter ever contributed to such expenses.
You must act very quickly and retain the services of an experienced estate and property law attorney to act for you and them. Give this lawyer all the facts and any and all documents you have and enable them to be in the best position to act for you.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.