Property issues

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

Our childhood home in Jamaica had three owners — my great aunt, my father and mother. Both my great aunt and father passed away. How would my mother proceed in selling the house?

It would have been more helpful and to the point if you had included in your letter certain facts. For instance, what kind of ownership did the three proprietors of the family home have — whether they held the title as joint tenants or tenants-in-common. If it was as tenants-in-common, did your great aunt have children who survived her? If her children per-deceased her, did they have children? This is assuming that they had a registered title

You see, if they held their interests as joint tenants then the whole of the interest in the property will belong to the survivor, who is clearly your mother. For this type of holding none of them holds any particular proportion of the interest in the property, unless they sever the joint tenancy, The three would then hold their interests, undivided, in the whole property together. Your mother would then have to apply to note their deaths on the title. In this case, it would not matter if your great aunt had any children. For the applications to note the deaths of your great aunt and your father, your mother would need the services of an attorney to prepare all the documents.

If they held their interests as tenants-in-common, then she would even more so need the services of a lawyer, because each of them/ their estates would be entitled to a one-third share of the property. Their estate would in this case have to be administered as the law requires for individually held estate property interests. I assume that neither your great aunt nor your father left a will, so applications for Letters of Administration would have to be made for the appointment of administrators for their respective estates. Also in such a case, if your great aunt had children, her interest would go to them if they survived her, if not then to their children if they had any, and if not it would go to her nearest next-of-kin. If you are an adult, the applications could be for you to be appointed to administer the deceased persons' estates. These applications must be made to either the Supreme Court or the Parish Court of the parish of their residence, depending on the value of their respective estates'.

It is always advisable when dealing with real property interests to retain the services of a lawyer to deal with all transactional matters as the law requires, so that a lay person does not act in such a way that they cause legal complications with ensuring the safety of the legal title to the property and the legal ability to lease, sell or give the interest therein to a loved one.

I am therefore seriously advising your mother to retain a lawyer to act for her and get the property registered in her sole name, after all the necessary legal processes have been completed. Then she can sell it to whomever she wishes. Make sure she acts as quickly as possible before anything happens before she completes what she has to do legally.

All the best.

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; 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.

Margarette MACAULAY

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