Are we responsible for our son’s debt?
We are having harrowing experience with the City Of Johannesburg with respect to utility bills, that is not in our name. My son fell sick and passed away, leaving two children behind. He was a single parent. We, the grandparents moved into the property to look after our grandchildren. We got an invoice for electricity and water to the tune of 40000 rand with interest which we informally tried to pay off in instalments. Nevertheless someone from the power utility however came to switch off the electricity and later another one disconnected our water supply. After a back and forth engagement with officials we were compelled to sign an acknowledgement of debt form to settle the amount over 24 months, before service was restored Due to the circumstances, we did. Are we not being held to ransom, since we are not responsible for the debt and are only there to assist with the kids? We have been paying the amount due since we moved in. We are Pensioners and can hardly afford the instalments on this “acknowledgement of debt” that we are not responsible for. Is it valid?
Your son’s estate (as the owner of the property) is responsible for the payment of the rates and taxes, and water and electricity accounts for the property. The executor will often make arrangements with the City to hold over the account until he is able to find money in the estate to pay the accounts. Otherwise, the executor will be forced to ask the heirs to pay the accounts themselves knowing that the executor will eventually reimburse the heirs for all the money they have spent. Whoever is the executor should speak to the utilities with a letter from the Master’s office asking them not to disconnect until the final liquidation and distribution of the estate which will make provision for the debt. Unfortunately this might include the sale of the house itself. Technically the debt was not incurred by yourselves, but if it was properly executed with the right clauses the implication would be that you had agreed to assume the debt. The ultimate solution will be to see to the speedy liquidation of your son’s estate.