KZN girl, 8, stands to become multi-millionaire after adoptive granny dies
An eight-year old KwaZulu-Natal girl stands to become a multi-millionaire if she wins an international inheritance legal battle for the estate of a wealthy German woman who was her adoptive grandmother.
But the grandmother's life partner is arguing that he inherited the money.
The girl was adopted in terms of “cultural laws” by the German woman's only child, a Unisa law professor, Hans Schulze. He married the girl’s mother in a civil ceremony in Johannesburg in January this year after a five-year relationship.
In February, Schulze — who was diagnosed with cancer and was desperate to get his financial affairs in order — paid R60,000 lobola at a traditional ceremony and, in terms of Zulu custom, his wife’s eight-year-old daughter was “handed over to him” with the blessing of the extended family, the biological father and traditional leaders and in the presence of an executor of his estate.
He died the next day aged 63, before he could adopt her formally, and leaving his own assets to his wife and the child.
Eight months later, Schulze’s mother, a widow and the girl's adoptive grandmother, died in Germany.
The young girl is now laying claim to the estimated R6.5m she left behind to an unrelated doctor who was the adoptive grandmother's life partner.
The girl's lawyers and her mother are arguing that she is the lawful grandchild and in terms of German law is a “statutory heir”.
The matter was in the spotlight recently in the Pietermaritzburg high court when the girl's lawyers lodged a successful application to compel the department of home affairs to issue her with a new birth certificate reflecting Schulze as her father.
While the mom did not want her name mentioned to protect the identity of her daughter, her attorney Sihle Mdludla said the inheritance was being “hotly contested” by the doctor and the matter was at a sensitive stage.
“A hearing had been set down for late November in Germany. But we managed to get that adjourned when we provided proof that the court had accepted our facts and had ordered home affairs to alter the birth certificate,” he said.
Schulze came to SA in 1993 and met the love of his life in 2014, who was then working as a receptionist at a Johannesburg hotel.
In her affidavit, the mom, who now lives in Norwood with her daughter, said two years into the relationship she introduced him to her family and her daughter, who was then living with relatives in Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal.
“From that time, he had accepted the child as his own and she visited every school holiday.
“He took a keen interest in her. He maintained her and paid for her education. He was a father figure and she regarded him as such. She was emotionally attached to him.”
From that time, he had accepted the child as his own and she visited every school holiday.
She said in August 2017, as a couple, they travelled to Germany and she met his family and his mother. He proposed to her in June 2018 and they again visited his mom in Germany to share the news.
When he died, the girl's mother called his mom to break the news.
But then Schulze's mother died in August and she had drafted a will in March — after his death but before she became aware of the existence of the child. This left everything to a doctor she described as “her life partner”.
In this will she said this was because her only child was dead and “he had no children”.
According to the mom’s affidavit, her mother-in-law met the little girl in about June this year when mom and daughter travelled to Germany, met her and her twin sister who “warmly embraced the child and accepted her as a grandchild” and arrangements were made for future visits.
In a submission to the German court deciding the inheritance issue — translated from German to English and attached to the court papers — attorney Werner Reeb claims the doctor was the women’s “alternative guardian” when she changed her will in his favour.
“It has to be pointed out that she was mistaken in thinking that he was her life partner. In actual fact, financial interests were of primary importance to him. For example, he only paid sporadic visits to the deceased after she drew up her last will. Further submissions remain reserved,” Reeb said.
He said the doctor's son was the dentist who had treated the woman.
The matter will go back to court in April.