Dealing With A Usufruct In The Sale Of Bequeathed Immovable Property Due to Estate Illiquidity


A client asked: where the surviving spouse holds a life usufruct over a property, what is the position if the executor needs to sell it to settle debts?

Summary of the Law:

In essence, the question revolves around what happens when a Will grants immovable property to a beneficiary with a Usufruct, but circumstances require the sale of that property because the estate lacks liquidity. Let’s break down the legal aspects involved:

When we talk about abatement of legacies, the Executor’s primary duty is to settle estate debts using the estate’s residue. Only after this is done, if the Executor needs to sell the assets bequeathed to beneficiaries to cover the remaining liabilities, the legacies must be reduced proportionately. Abatement refers to the reduction of a legacy to ensure that it accommodates a proportional share of the remaining debts.

It’s important to note that while the Executor can choose which specific bequeathed assets to sell, the legatee (the beneficiary) retains the right to claim those assets by paying their fair share of the outstanding liabilities.

Now, if a Usufruct was granted to someone over a special bequest, the total value of the assets consists of two parts: the usufructuary value and the value of the bare dominium. In such a scenario, both the usufructuary and the bare dominium holder will share proportionately in covering the remaining estate debts.


In a nutshell, when an estate faces liquidity issues and the sale of the bequeathed immovable property becomes necessary, the following principles apply:

Estate liabilities are prioritized, and the residue of the estate is used to settle these debts first.
If the sale of bequeathed assets is required to cover remaining debts, legacies must be reduced proportionately. The Executor has some discretion in choosing which assets to sell, but beneficiaries have the right to claim these assets by paying their share of the liabilities.

If a Usufruct was granted, both the usufructuary and the bare dominium holder would share proportionately in addressing the estate’s outstanding debts.

These legal principles aim to ensure fairness and equity in the distribution of assets when an estate faces financial challenges. If you have further questions or need specific guidance related to your case, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our legal team for personalized advice.

Bregman Moodley Attorneys: Your legal partner for a brighter future. Get in touch today for further information.

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