All posts by Schnetlers

ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACTS: CAN I GET ONE AFTER MARRIAGE?

Couples who are interested in an antenuptial contract often make the decision to get one before they are married. That is the ideal scenario. However, some couples may have already gotten married in community of property, and later decide to change to another form of marriage contract.

Can it be done?

The Matrimonial Property Act allows a husband and wife to apply jointly to court for leave to change the matrimonial property system which applies to their marriage.

  • According to South African law, the parties who wish to become married out of community of property must enter into an antenuptial contract prior to the marriage ceremony being concluded.
  • If they fail to do so then they are automatically married in community of property. Of course, many people are unaware of this provision and should be able to satisfy the court that it should change their matrimonial property system if it was their express intention that they intended to be married out of community of property.

What are the requirements?

In order for the parties to change their matrimonial property system, the act mentions the following requirements:

  • There must be sound reasons for the proposed change.
  • The Act requires that notice of the parties’ intention to change their matrimonial property regime must be given to the Registrar of Deeds, must be published in the Government Gazette and two local newspapers at least two weeks prior to the date on which the application will be heard and must be given by certified post to all the known creditors of the spouses.
  • The court must be satisfied that no other person will be prejudiced by the proposed change. The court must be satisfied that the rights of creditors of the parties must be preserved in the proposed contract so the application must contain sufficient information about the parties’ assets and liabilities to enable the court to ascertain whether or not there are sound reasons for the proposed change and whether or not any particular person will be prejudiced by the change.

What is the downside?

The downside is that the application is expensive because you and your spouse have to apply to the High Court on notice to the Registrar of Deeds and all known creditors, to be granted leave to sign a Notarial Contract having the effect of a postnuptial contract. You must also have solid grounds for wanting to switch to an antenuptial contract. Therefore, it’s not something you can do on a whim.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

References:

The Matrimonial Property Act 88 OF 1984

WHAT IS THE SALE AGREEMENT?

Whenever you buy or sell a house you will encounter the sale agreement, which is also called an “offer to purchase”. This is a contract between a buyer and seller and covers the terms and conditions governing the sale of the property. Buying or selling a house can be stressful and sometimes confusing, however, the sale agreement doesn’t have to be.

An agreement of sale is a written agreement signed by both the buyer and the seller (and also by the seller’s spouse if he’s married or subject to the laws of a foreign country), whereas an offer to purchase may be either oral or written. If it’s in writing and signed by the buyer and accepted by the seller, an offer to purchase constitutes a binding agreement of sale, whereas an oral offer isn’t binding.

What should a sale agreement include?

These are a few things a sale agreement should include:

  • The names, identity numbers and marital status of all the parties.
  • The buyer’s address.
  • Description and size of the property as detailed in your deed of transfer.
  • The selling price and whether a deposit will be payable. If so, the deposit money will be held in the trust account by the transferring attorney.
  • A provision that the buyer pays all transfer and bond costs.
  • The name of the attorney handling the transfer.
  • The date of taking possession and occupation.
  • The provision that the buyer is responsible for all taxes and other municipal charges from the day of taking possession.

Who is responsible for the sale agreement?

The agreement, or contract, is usually an offer by the interested buyer. The buyer presents the offer to the owner of the property, who will accept it by signing it. This forms a binding contract. It is necessary to always consult a property lawyer who can assist you in a sale agreement.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

References

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

Legalwise.co.za

THE BASICS OF CREATING A LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

Who your property is passed on to depends on whether you have a valid will or not. If you do have a valid will, then your property will be divided according to your wishes stated therein. If you die without a will (called “intestate”), then your property will be divided amongst your immediate family according to the laws of intestate succession. 

How can I create a Will?

If you are older than 16, you have the right to create a will, to state who you would want your property to go to when you die. In order for your will to be valid, it needs to be compiled in the proper way.

  1. According to the law, you have to be mentally competent when you compile your will; this means that you must understand the consequences of creating a will and that you must also be in a reasonable state of mind when you do so.
  2. You must make sure that your will is in writing in order for it to be valid.
  3. Two people older than 14 years must witness the creating of your will (these witnesses cannot be beneficiaries).
  4. You have to initialise every page of the will and then sign the last page. The witnesses must also initialise and sign the will.
  5. You can, and should, approach a lawyer to help you draw up your will to avoid creating an invalid will.

You can appoint an executor in your will to divide your property amongst your loved ones. An executor is the person who will make sure that your property is divided according to your wishes, as set out in your will, and he/she will also settle your outstanding debts. If you don’t choose an executor yourself, then the court will appoint someone, which is usually a family member.

What are the risks of not having a Will?

If you don’t have a valid will when you die, your property will be divided according to the rules set out by the law. These rules state that a married person’s property will be divided equally amongst their spouse and children. If you don’t have a spouse or any children, then your property will be divided between other family members. If you also don’t have any blood relatives, then the property will be given to the government. You might think that you do not need a will, as your family will divide your possessions amongst each other, but you must keep in mind that delays in dealing with your estate could affect your family negatively; they might be relying on their inheritance for an income.

  • The beneficiaries of your estate will be determined according to the laws of intestate succession, if you die without a will.
  • This law determines the distribution of your assets to your closest blood relatives, meaning that your assets may be sold or split up against your wishes.
  • Some of your assets could be given to someone in your family that you did not intent to benefit from your estate.
  • Without a will, you cannot leave a specific item to a specific family member or friend.
  • If you live with someone but are not married to them, the law will not necessarily recognise him/her as a beneficiary of your estate, unless you have left a will naming them as a beneficiary.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

References:

Western Cape Government. (2017). Making a Will. [online] Available at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/making-will [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].

Momentum.co.za. (2017). Drafting a will and setting up a trust. [online] Available at: https://www.momentum.co.za/wps/wcm/connect/momV1/f150ba2e-3724-4b42-9265-332106cb6b83/drafting+a+will_E+vs+2+%2807032013%29%5B1%5D.pdf?MOD=AJPERES [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].

HOW DOES INHERITANCE WORK?

When someone dies they normally have what is called a ‘will’. The people who benefit from this ‘will’ are known as the heirs. Upon someone death, the heirs receive an ‘inheritance’. The person who administers the will of the deceased is called an ‘executor’.

What legislation affects inheritances?

South Africa’s inheritance laws apply to every person who owns property in South Africa.

The three main statutes governing inheritances in South Africa are:

  1. The Administration of Estates Act, which regulates the disposal of the deceased’s estates in South Africa;
  2. The Wills Act, which affects all testators with property in South Africa;
  3. The Intestate Succession Act, which governs the devolution of estates for all deceased persons who have property in the Republic and who die without a will.

All property located in South Africa is subject to these laws, and there are no separate laws for foreigners. Immoveable property is not treated any differently to other types of moveable assets for inheritance purposes. Inheritance issues of foreigners and South African citizens are primarily dealt with by the Master of the High Court; however, if a dispute arises, then the case can be heard in any High Court of South Africa.

Foreigners who acquire immovable property in South Africa through purchase or inheritance must register their transfer of ownership by registering a deed of transfer with the Registrar of Deeds in whose area the property is situated. The process of registering a deed of transfer is carried out by a conveyancer, or specialised lawyer, who acts upon a power of attorney granted by the owner of the property.

Tax and inheritance

In South Africa, there is no tax payable by the heirs who get an inheritance. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is also not payable by the recipient of an inheritance. Estate Duty and CGT, where applicable, are usually payable by the estate. If it is a foreign estate, it will be subject to the taxes of its country of origin.

What about donations or gifts?

Donations and gifts are treated differently to inheritance. For individuals, donations are subject to a Donations Tax of 20%, with an annual exemption of up to R100,000 of the value of all donations made during the tax year.

  • Non-residents are not subject to Donations Tax. However, in cases where the resident donor transfers his property to a non-resident (donee), and the resident donor fails to pay the Donations Tax, the non-resident (donee) and the resident (donor) will be jointly and severally liable for the tax.
  • Donations between spouses are exempt from Donations Tax, as are donations made to certain public benefit organisations. 

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference

The South African Revenue Service (SARS)

HOW TO APPLY FOR SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE

Maintenance is the obligation to provide another person, for example a minor, with housing, food, clothing, education and medical care, or with the means that are necessary for providing the person with these essentials. This legal duty to maintain is called ‘the duty to maintain’ or ‘the duty to support’.

The duty to maintain is based on blood relationship, adoption, or the fact that the parties are married to each other.

An application for maintenance can be made against a defendant (person who must pay maintenance) at any Maintenance Court (“court”) in the district where the complainant (person who applies for maintenance) or the child, on whose behalf maintenance is claimed, resides or works.

The parents, guardians and/or caregivers of a child can apply for maintenance on behalf of such a child.

What should a person take to court when applying for maintenance?

  • Identity document of the complainant.
  • Complainant’s contact details, such as telephone numbers and home and work addresses.
  • If maintenance for a child is claimed, the birth certificate of that child.
  • If maintenance for the spouse is claimed, the marriage certificate or divorce order where maintenance order was granted.
  • A full list of expenses and any proof of same, such as receipts.
  • The complainant’s payslip and proof of any other income.
  • As much detail as possible regarding the defendant, such as telephone numbers, home and work addresses, list of known income and expenses, and so on.

What happens after the application has been made?

  • The maintenance officer will inform the defendant of the application and will hold an informal enquiry with the complainant and defendant being present.
  • The defendant must take any proof of his/her income and expenses to the informal enquiry.
  • The purpose of the informal enquiry is to assist the complainant and the defendant in reaching a settlement.
  • If a settlement is reached, an agreement will be entered into between the complainant and the defendant, which will be made an order of court.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, the maintenance officer will place the matter before court for a formal enquiry to be held.
  • The court will consider the facts and evidence of the claim and decide, by way of a maintenance order, whether maintenance should be payable and the amount of such maintenance.
  • The complainant and the defendant must both be present at the informal and formal enquiry, and will be allowed to have legal representation.
  • If the defendant fails to appear at the formal enquiry in court, an order may be given in his/her absence.
  • It will not be necessary for the complainant and/or defendant to appear in court if they consent in writing to the maintenance order being granted.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

Justice.co.za

Legalwise.co.za

CUSTOMARY MARRIAGES AND COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY

Since the promulgation of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 120 of 1998, the position has changed in that customary marriages are now recognised in our law. A marriage that is valid in terms of customary law and was in existence at the time of commencement of the Act, is for all purposes recognised as a marriage in terms of the Act. In the case of a person being in more than one customary marriage, all valid customary marriages entered into before the commencement of the Act, are for all purposes recognised as valid marriages in terms of the Act.

This also means that customary marriages will fall under community of property. For a customary marriage not to fall under community of property, an ante nuptial contract must be in place.

What is a customary marriage?

  • It is a marriage entered into between a man and a woman, negotiated and celebrated according to the prevailing customary law in their community.
  • A customary marriage entered into before 15 November 2000 is recognised as a valid marriage, however, it will be regulated in terms of the specific traditions and customs applicable at the time the marriage was entered into.
  • A customary marriage entered into after 15 November 2000 is recognised as a valid marriage and will receive full legal protection irrespective of whether it is monogamous or polygamous.
  • A monogamous customary marriage will automatically be in community of property, unless it is stipulated otherwise in an ante nuptial contract.

In a polygamous marriage, the husband must apply to the High Court for permission to enter into such a marriage and provide the court with a written contract stating how the property in the marriages will be regulated (to protect the property interests of both the existing and prospective spouses).

Registering Customary Marriages

Customary marriages must be registered within three months of taking place. This can be done at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or through a designated traditional leader in areas where there are no Home Affairs offices.

The following people should present themselves at either a Home Affairs office or a traditional leader in order to register a customary marriage:

  • The two spouses (with copies of their valid identity books and a lobola agreement, if available).
  • At least one witness from the bride’s family.
  • At least one witness from the groom’s family.
  • And/or the representative of each of the families.

In the event that the spouses were minors (or one was a minor) at the time of the customary marriage, the parents should also be present when the request to register the marriage is made.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/marriages

https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/customary-marriages

http://www.legalcity.net/Index.cfm?fuseaction=RIGHTS.article&ArticleID=5331587

UNOPPOSED AND OPPOSED DIVORCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

My spouse said that he/she won’t ‘give me a divorce’. What can I do? Your spouse can oppose the divorce, but it is the Court that grants a divorce, not your spouse. If you convince the court that the marital relationship has irretrievably broken down, the court can grant a decree of divorce even if your spouse does not want to get divorced.

There is a process, called a ‘rule 58 or rule 43’ application, whereby you can ask the court to give an order regarding the care of and access to the children and maintenance pending the finalisation of the divorce. You can even ask for a contribution to your legal costs.

How much does it cost?

In the case of an unopposed divorce (i.e. there is no dispute between yourself and your spouse about the divorce or what should happen), your fees are likely to be limited to a set fee for legal costs, as well as Sheriff’s fees and minor expenses such as transport, photocopies etc. Sheriff’s fees can vary widely, depending on the distance he has to travel and how many attempts he has to make at serving pleadings on the opposing party, but generally these fees would be a few hundred rand. Where a divorce is opposed, the costs become unpredictable and entirely dependant on the specifics of the case.

How long does it take?

Where a divorce is unopposed and there are no complications or children involved, it can sometimes be finalised in as little as four weeks.

Where a divorce is opposed, it can easily take two to three years, or more. In most cases, however, divorces get settled before the parties have to go to Court – even where the divorce started out as an opposed divorce. As soon as the parties in an opposed divorce reach a settlement agreement and the divorce becomes unopposed, it can again be possible to finalise the divorce in as little as four weeks.

What you need to do

Before you approach the Court to start divorce proceedings, you will should get certified copies of as many of the following documents as you can:

  1. Your identity document
  2. Your Ante-Nuptial Agreement, if any
  3. The children’s births certificates, if any and
  4. Your marriage certificate

Also make sure you have the following information handy:

  1. Your full names, surname, identity number, occupation and place of residence
  2. Your spouse’s full names, surname, identity number, occupation and place of residence
  3. Date when you got married and where the marriage took place
  4. Children’s full names, surnames, identity numbers and
  5. Comprehensive details of any funds (such as pension funds, retirement annuities and provident funds) which you or your spouse belongs to.

You may institute divorce proceedings in either a High Court or Magistrates’ Court (Regional Court).

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference:

http://www.legal-aid.co.za/selfhelp/

SECTIONAL TILES: WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE BODY CORPORATE?

When it comes to sectional title schemes, there is still widespread misunderstanding of even the basics, starting with the body corporate and how it is established, as well as what its functions and powers are. This misunderstanding often gives rise to many problems and disputes in sectional title schemes which could quite easily have been avoided.

What is a sectional title?

A Sectional Title Development Scheme, usually referred to as a “scheme”, provides for separate ownership of a property, by individuals. These schemes fall under the control of the Sectional Titles Act, which came into effect on 1 June 1988.

When you buy a property that’s part of a scheme, you own the inside of the property i.e. the space contained by the inner walls, ceilings & floors of the unit. You are entitled to paint or decorate or undertake alterations as desired, providing such alterations do not infringe on municipal by-laws.

What is the body corporate?

The Body Corporate is the collective name given to all the owners of units in a scheme. Units usually refers to the townhouses or flats in a development. The body corporate comes into existence as soon as the developer of the scheme transfers a unit to a new owner. This means that all registered owners of units in a scheme are members of the Body Corporate.

  1. The Body Corporate controls and runs the Scheme.
  2. Day-to-day administration of the Scheme is vested in trustees who are appointed by the Body Corporate.
  3. Major decisions regarding the Scheme are made by the Body Corporate, usually at the annual general meeting (AGM), or at a special general meeting (SGM). At these meetings, matters, which affect the Scheme, are discussed, budgets are approved, rules can be changed and trustees are appointed. Each member of a Body Corporate is entitled to vote at these meetings, providing that the member is not in arrears with levy payments or in serious breach of the rules.

The Body Corporate exists to manage and administer the land and buildings in the scheme. This means, that the Body Corporate is required to enforce the legislation and rules in the Sectional Titles Act, the Management Rules and the Conduct Rules of the scheme. Amongst their other duties, the Trustees manage the Body Corporate’s funds, enforce the rules and resolve conflict to the best of their ability.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

http://www.angor.co.za/news/understanding-sectional-title-terminology-body-corporate/

http://www.sectionaltitlecentre.co.za/faqs.aspx

http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/568/161017.html

HOW DO I REGISTER A TRUST?

A trust is an agreement between the person who owns the assets and the appointed trustees. A trust can be a good way to preserve your wealth for your family and children. A well-managed trust will make sure that anyone who is a beneficiary of the trust benefits from it. The trustees have the important job to administer the trust and its assets objectively with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind.

Trusts and their administration fall under the Trust Property Control Act no 57/1988.

What types of trusts are there?

It’s important to note that there are two types of trusts. An inter vivos trust and a testamentary trust. A testamentary trust is one that’s formed from the will of a deceased person. In the case of a testamentary trust the deceased’s last will serves as the trust document. An inter vivos trust is created between living persons, and will form the basis of this article. Inter vivos trusts can limit estate duty and preserve your assets and wealth for your descendants. Certain financial institutions assist in setting up a trust and can act as trustees.

Registering an inter vivos trust

To register an inter vivos trust with the Master of the High Court, the following documents must be lodged.

  1. Original trust deed or notarial certified copy thereof.
  2. Proof of payment of R100 fee, for registration of a new Trust.
  3. Completed Acceptance of Trusteeship (J417) and Acceptance of Auditor Application (J405) forms.
  4. Bond of security by the trustees – form J344 (if required by the Master)

* There are no costs involved in amending an existing Trust.

These documents are also required for the Master to issue the trustees with letters of authority for administering the trust. A trustee may not proceed to administer the trust without the written authority of the Master.

If the trust’s assets or majority of its assets are located in a particular area, then the inter vivos trust has to be registered with the Master who has jurisdiction in that area.

De-registering of a trust

The Master can de-register the trust only once it has been terminated. The common law makes provision for the termination of a trust as the Trust Property Control Act makes no such provision. The following circumstances can be grounds for a trust to be terminated:

  1. by statute
  2. fulfilment of the object of the trust
  3. failure of the beneficiary
  4. renunciation or repudiation by the beneficiary
  5. destruction of the trust property
  6. the operation of a resolutive condition

You will still need the original letter of authority, bank statements reflecting a nil balance on the final statement and proof that the beneficiaries have received their benefits.

Administering the trust

Trustees are required to comply with the Trust Property Control Act, which determines how trusts should be administered and the role of the trustees. If trustees fail to comply with the Act they may face criminal prosecution. The trustees have to always act with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind.

Some legal requirements of trustees include not being able to make secret profits, taking care and being objective when administering trust assets and always acting in good faith.

Reference:

Justice.gov.za. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Administration of Trusts. [online] Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/master/trust/ [Accessed 19/05/2016].

Sanlam.co.za. Sanlam Trusts. [online] Available at: https://www.sanlam.co.za/personal/financialplanning/willstrustsestates/Pages/trusts/ [Accessed 20/05/2016].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

GETTING CHILD CONTACT FOR DIVORCED PARENTS

Contact refers to maintaining a personal relationship with a child. It entitles a person to see, spend time with (visit or be visited) or communicate (through post, by telephone or any form of electronic communication) with a child who does not live with that person. The child’s parent/s or a person other than the child’s parent/s (such as grandparent) can obtain the right to contact a child, provided that the contact would serve in the child’s best interests.

What will the court consider when granting an order in respect of contact?

  1. The best interests of the child.
  2. The nature of the personal relationship between the child and his/her parent/s.
  3. The degree of commitment the parent/s has shown towards the child.
  4. The extent to which the parent/s has contributed towards the expenses in connection with the birth and maintenance of the child.
  5. The likely effect on the child of any change in the child’s circumstances, including the effect of being separated from the parent/s or brothers/sisters with whom the child has been living.
  6. Any family violence involving the child or a family member of the child.
  7. The need to protect the child from any physical or psychological harm that may be caused by subjecting or exposing the child to maltreatment, abuse, neglect, degradation, violence or harmful behaviour.
  8. The child’s age, maturity, stage of development, gender, background and relevant characteristics of the child.
  9. Any disability that a child may have and any chronic illness from which a child may suffer from.

A parenting plan will contain a clause setting out the reasonable contact that the parent of alternate residence shall have with the child during term time and school holidays, taking into account the child’s social, school and extra-mural activities.

​There are an infinite number of possibilities available when drawing up a parenting plan. Jobs, schools and a variety of other factors must still be taken into account. The bottom line is to find a plan that works for the whole family.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/child-contact/

http://www.divorcelaws.co.za/the-non-custodian-parent-and-contact.html