The following question is part of Groundup's Answers to your questions series and comes from a reader wanting to know about claiming inheritance.
My late father, a police captain, never recognised me as his daughter. Can I claim anything from his estate?
The short answer
You could ask the GEPF and see if there is any way in which you could be included as a beneficiary..
The whole question
My biological father passed away yesterday. He was a captain in the police force.
Unfortunately, he never acknowledged me as his daughter. My mother and grandmother took him to court back in 1981 for blood tests but every time the results came back they were told in court that the dockets had gone missing.
I met my dad once when I was 19 but he never contacted me again. I just want to know what my rights are as his daughter. Can I claim from his estate?
The long answer
Firstly, as your father was a police captain, he would have been a member of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and he would have been asked to nominate his beneficiaries on the GEPF form. The GEPF says that beneficiaries can either be the member’s dependants and/or nominees.
A child who is eligible for benefits, they say, is the natural or legally adopted child of a member. “When a GEPF member dies, the GEPF pays a monthly pension to his/her young children – this is called child pension. We pay child pension to the children of our deceased members – from birth to 22 years old.”
They go on to say that “…if you do not include all relevant beneficiaries, the GEPF has the right to overrule a Nomination form or to include excluded beneficiaries if they meet the requirements of a dependant as determined by the rules. This includes children born out of wedlock.”
The problem with claiming from the GEPF in your case is that unless you are younger than 22, you will not qualify for a child’s pension.
The GEPF pays death benefits to beneficiaries if a member dies in service or within five years of retiring. If a member died within five years of retirement, the GEPF would pay out the balance of the five years in a lump sum payment.
You could contact the GEPF and put your questions to them, and see if there is any way in which you could be included as a beneficiary.
You would need to bring your ID and birth certificate, and any details of your father that you have.
Here is the GEPF toll-free contact number: 0800 117 669
Tel: (012) 326 2507
Secondly, the common law says that it is the duty of a parent to support a child whether the child is born in or out of wedlock and that this must continue until the child becomes self-supporting.
Theresa Tannous of local law firm Millers Inc. writes that, “Parents owe a duty of support to a child according to their respective means and this duty continues even after the death of one of the parents. A child can therefore lodge a claim for maintenance against his deceased parent's estate. However, in cases where a child who is no longer a minor (i.e. above the age of 18 years), wishes to institute a claim against his parent's deceased estate, he will have to prove that he in fact requires support and the amount of support claimed.”
This is obviously made more complicated by the fact that your father had not acknowledged you as his child, and the paternity case that your mother instituted in 1981 went nowhere because the docket went missing.
However, Section 36 of the South African Children’s Act says that where a child is born to parties who were not married to each other and the male person had sexual intercourse with the mother at any time when that child could have been conceived, he will be presumed to be the biological father of the child, if there is nothing to prove that he wasn’t.
It may be worth getting some legal or paralegal advice. You could ask the Black Sash for free paralegal advice at:
Helpline: 072 66 33 73
The Women’s Legal Centre Trust is an organisation that specifically offers legal assistance to protect and advance women’s human rights:
Helpdesk Queries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cape Town tel: 021 424 5660
Wishing you the best,
Answered on Jan. 19, 2021, 4:45 p.m.
Published originally on GroundUp.
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