Surviving spouse, children entitled to their house and household chattels, and not relatives – Lawyer
"If for any reason, they’re unable to agree to choose one out of two or several houses, then upon application being made to the court, the court will decide which house they must choose”
Head of Paintsil and Co, Kweku Paintsil says that surviving spouse and children of deceased spouses who pass away without writing a will, are by law entitled to their house and household chattels.
According to Mr Paintsil, “the surviving spouse means that if the man died and had more than one wife, then all the wives together with all the children are entitled to that one house equally. That’s what we mean by tenants in common”.
He said that not even the family of the deceased spouse has a share in the house and the household.
Speaking on Joy News’ The Law on Sunday, Mr Paintsil said that in the situation where there is more than one house involved, “then the law is that, the surviving spouse or child, or children as appropriate are entitled to choose one of the houses.
“If for any reason, they’re unable to agree to choose one out of two or several houses, then upon application being made to the court, the court will decide which house they must choose.”
He said that the household chattels include everything that is used together with the house, except a commercial vehicle.
He said that all the household chattels for the respective houses, go together with any one of those houses that the surviving spouse(s) and child or children choose.
“After the one house and the chattels, everything else that the deceased owned we call it the residue of the estate. The residue of an estate is everything that the deceased acquired in their lifetime, besides the one house and the household chattels.”
Throwing more light on the Intestate Succession law (PNDCL 111), he said that according to the law, the surviving spouse is entitled to 3/16th of the residue of the estate.
“Let’s say we’ve given a value to the totality of everything that we call the residue. And the value of it is let me say GHC 1600. The law says that of that value, the surviving spouse is entitled to 3/16. In other words, if it’s GHC1600, then the surviving spouse is entitled to GHC300.
“Then the surviving children or the surviving child is also entitled to 9/16. That is GHC900. Of the remaining GHC400, the law says that, if the deceased left behind surviving parents, then they are entitled to 2/16 of the residue of the estate. Then the other 1/8, the law says it must be distributed in accordance with custom.”
In most instances, most people believe the 1/8 portion belongs to the family. This he said is false.
“The law does not mention family. The law states that it ought to be distributed in accordance with custom.”
He also added that naturally, the surviving spouse and children could also benefit from the 1/8. Depending on whether it is patrilineal or matrilineal, the surviving spouse could go in for the children.