REGISTERING DEATHS AND DEATH CERTIFICATE REQUIREMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

A4_bMany South African citizens do not know the correct procedures to follow in order to register a death, or how to obtain a death certificate and by whom, until it is too late. Coming to terms with a death is difficult enough without having to enquire about the legal processes that are necessary in the circumstances in order to proceed with funeral arrangements and other family affairs. The Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992 outlines the simple requirements and procedures to be followed upon the death of a South African citizen.

The Births and Deaths Registration Act no. 51 of 1992 requires that a person’s death must be reported to any one of the following people authorised by The Department of Home Affairs. Specific officers at the Department of Home Affairs, South African Police Service members, South African Missions, Embassy’s or Consulates where the death occurred abroad or funeral undertakers that have been appointed and are recognised by law.

A Notification of Death or Still Birth Form (Form BI-1663) must be completed when reporting a death. This form, along with all other forms that may be necessary are available from all Home Affairs offices. The following people have to complete different sections of this form in order for it to be submitted: the person reporting the death, the medical practitioner or traditional healer involved in the declaration of the death, and a Home Affairs official or a member of the Police service if a Home Affairs official is not available.

A Death Report (Form BI-1680) will be issued after a death has been registered with one of the relevant department officials. Only someone whom the Department of Home Affairs has authorised to do so can issue this report and this includes traditional leaders, members of the SA Police Services and authorised undertakers.

These designated people may also issue burial orders. No burial may take place unless authorised by way of a burial order (Form BI-14).

Deaths of South African citizens and South African permanent residence permit holders that occur outside South Africa must be reported to the nearest South African embassy or mission abroad. The country in which the death occurs must issue a death certificate and a certified copy of the death certificate must be submitted to the South African embassy or mission when reporting a death. If the deceased is to be buried in South Africa, the embassy or mission will assist with the paperwork and arrangements with regards to transportation of the body to South Africa.

The Department of Home Affairs will issue a Death Certificate on receipt of the notification of death form BI-1663 and the Death Report form BI-1680. Applications for a Death Certificate must be lodged at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or at any South African embassy, mission or consulate if the death occurs abroad. An abridged death certificate will be issued free of charge on the same day of registration of death. An unabridged death certificate can be obtained by completing Form

 BI-132 and paying the required fee.

If a person has been recorded, mistakenly or fraudulently, as dead in the National Population Register, (i.e. they are still alive); this must be reported as soon as possible to the nearest Department of Home Affairs office for urgent investigation and corrective action.

Chapter 3 (Section 14 to 22) of the Births and Death’s Registration Act regulates all matters pertaining to the Registrations of Deaths in South Africa and regulations on how to obtain a Death Certificate. The Act provides for the different procedures to be followed when a death is due to natural causes, stillbirth or other methods. This process is simple to follow and the appointed officials at Home Affairs Departments are fully equipped to process registrations and to answer any questions you may have.

Reference List:

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)

DEALING WITH MARRIAGE AND ESTATE PLANNING

A3_bIt is important to understand the legal implications of the marital property regime, especially when drafting a Last Will and Testament and also when entering into a marriage, as the regime chosen by the estate planner is going to affect his/her assets.

The most important forms of marriage are: marriage in community of property, marriage out of community of property (without accrual), and marriage out of community of property (with accrual).

Marriage in community of property

  1. There is no prior contractual arrangement, apart from getting married;
  2. Spouses do not have two distinct estates;
  3. There is a joint estate, with each spouse having a 50% share in each and every asset in the estate (no matter in whose name it is registered);
  4. Applies to assets acquired before the marriage and during the marriage;
  5. Should one spouse incur debts in his own name it will automatically bind his/her spouse, who will also become liable for the debt;
  6. If a sequestration takes place (in the case of insolvency), the joint estate is sequestrated.

Marriage out of community of property without the accrual system

  1. An antenuptial contract (ANC) is drawn up by an attorney (who is registered as a notary), before the marriage;
  2. Where there is no contract, the marriage is automatically in community of property;
  3. The values of each spouse’s estate on going into the marriage are stipulated in the contract;
  4. A marriage by ANC means that all property owned by spouses before the date of the marriage will remain the sole property of each spouse;
  5. Each spouse controls his/her own estate exclusively without interference from the other spouse, although each has a duty to contribute to the household expenses according to his/her means;
  6. To allow for assets acquired by spouses during the marriage to remain the sole property of each spouse, the accrual system must be specifically excluded in the ANC.

Marriage out of community of property with the accrual system

  1. The accrual system automatically applies unless expressly excluded in the antenuptial contract;
  2. The accrual system addresses the question of the growth of each spouse’s estate after the date of marriage.

ESTATE PLANNING

Donations between spouses are exempt from donations tax and estate duty.

Marriage in community of property

  1. In the event of the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse will have a claim for 50% of the value of the combined estate, thus reducing the actual value of the estate by 50%. The estate is divided after all the debts have been settled in a deceased estate (not including burial costs and estate duty, as these are the sole obligations of the deceased and not the joint estate).
  2. When drafting a Last Will and Testament, spouses married in community of property need to be aware that it is only half of any asset that he or she is able to bequeath.
  3. Upon the death of one spouse, all banking accounts are frozen (even if they are in the name of one of the spouses), which could affect liquidity.
  4. Donations or bequests to someone married in community of property can be made to exclude the community of property; in other words, if the donor stipulates that the donation must not fall into the joint estate, then the donee can build up a separate estate. However, returns on such separate assets will go back to the joint estate.

Marriage out of community of property without the accrual system

Each estate planner (spouse) retains possession of assets owned prior to the marriage.

Marriage out of community of property with the accrual system

A donation from one spouse to the other spouse is excluded from the calculation of each spouse’s accrual; in other words, the recipient does not include it in his growth and the donor’s accrual is automatically reduced by the donation amount.

DIVORCE

In the event of divorce, the marriage will be dissolved by court decree, which will address such aspects as child maintenance, access, guardianship and custody, spousal maintenance, the division of assets, division of pension interests and so on.

COHABITATION AND DEFINITION OF “SPOUSE”

Cohabitation is defined as a stable, monogamous relationship where a couple who do not wish to or cannot get married, live together as spouses. The Taxation Laws Amendment Act has extended the definition of “spouses” to include “a same sex or heterosexual union which the Commissioner is satisfied is intended to be permanent”.

Many pieces of legislation, including the Pension Funds Amendment Act and the Taxation Laws Amendment Act, now define spouse to include a partner in a cohabitative relationship, the effects of which are that cohabitees will benefit from the Section 4(q) estate duty deduction in the Estate Duty Act, and the donations tax exemptions of the Income Tax Act.

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)

TROUBLE WITH THE NEIGHBOURS

A2_bYou and your neighbour have been good friends for years; your children have grown up together and you have always thought of him as a reasonable man, but lately you’re not so sure. His trees’ branches overhang into your property, blocking your gutters with leaves, not to mention the root system creeping closer to your home’s foundation. When you confront him, he flatly refuses to do anything about it, since they are, after all, trees he and his wife planted when they bought the property 30 years ago!

The question in everyone’s mind is, what can I do about my neighbour’s trees and plants that are causing damage to my property and discomfort to me? He most certainly has the right to do on his property as he pleases, but what about my right to use and enjoy my property? Surely his enjoyment cannot be at the cost of someone else?

Trees with lateral root systems are often a culprit in neighbourly disputes. In the case Bingham v City Council of Johannesburg 1934 WLD 180, the municipality planted trees along the footpath for beautification purposes. The problem was that they chose to plant oak trees, which have strong lateral root systems that drain the soil surrounding them. The flowers and shrubs in Bingham’s garden died as a result of this, and even worse, the strong root system was making its way to the foundation of his home. Due to the threat to the property (the house) the court ordered the municipality to remove the trees.

In Vogel v Crewe and another [2004] 1 All SA 587 (T) the issue regarding roots was also discussed in court. Vogel and Crewe were neighbours and Crewe was of the opinion that a tree planted about two metres from the wall, separating the two properties, was the cause of all the problems on his property. According to him the tree’s root system was causing damage to the boundary wall and leaves from the tree were falling into his swimming pool and blocking his gutters and sewage system. The court’s approach was based on an objective test of reasonableness. They took into account the benefits of protecting the tree, being its visual pleasure, shade, and the oxygen it produced, as opposed to the trouble it was causing Crewe. Crewe was not able to prove that the problem with the leaves in his swimming pool, gutters and sewage system was caused by the tree in question, and the court found that the wall separating the two properties could easily be repaired. No drastic action, like removing the tree, was necessary and Crewe failed in his application.

From the above it is clear that the court will only order the removal of a tree should the roots pose a real and immediate threat of damaging the property. They will not order the removal of overhanging branches for the shedding of leaves.

In Malherbe v Ceres Municipality 1951 (4) SA 510 A it was confirmed that should a neighbour’s tree branches overhang or the roots spread into your property and the owner refuses to remove same, you may chop them off on the boundary line.

Hopefully you will be able to resolve tree-related issues with your neighbour in a courteous way, and remember, you also have the right to enjoy your property.

References: Bingham v City Council of Johannesburg 1934 WLD 180

 Vogel v Crewe and another [2004] 1 All SA 587 (T)

 Malherbe v Ceres Municipality 1951 (4) SA 510 A

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)

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INDEPENDENT TRUSTEE

A1_bA well-known court case, Land Bank of South Africa vs JL Parker and Two Others (the Parker case) irrevocably changed the requirements for independent trustees to be appointed and placed renewed focus on the duties and responsibilities of all trustees.

As a result of the Parker case, most Masters of the High Court now require an independent trustee to be appointed in addition to the trustees who are beneficiaries of the trust, and therefore will not issue a Letter of Appointment without at least one independent trustee being appointed. An independent trustee will be a person who is not related to the founder, the other trustees or the beneficiaries.

This independent trustee does not necessarily have to be a professional person but it must be someone who fully realises the responsibilities he or she is accepting when agreeing to act as a trustee, and is qualified in the view of the Master of the High Court to act as a trustee.

All trustees (independent or not) are charged with the responsibility to ensure that the trust functions properly to the greatest benefit of the beneficiaries. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  1. ensuring compliance with the provisions of the trust deed;
  2. ensuring compliance with all statutory requirements;
  3. conducting of proper trustee meetings;
  4. recording of proper minutes of all meetings and decisions by the trustees;
  5. proper maintenance and safekeeping of minute books.

It is clear that a person who is appointed as an independent trustee must have the necessary experience and expertise to properly execute these duties as well as to add value to the trust. In many cases, the trustees who are not independent do not have sufficient knowledge of and experience in the proper administration of trusts. Furthermore, they might also lack expertise in utilising the vehicle of the trust in order to maximise the benefit for the beneficiaries.

This expertise includes negotiating and entering into business contracts, holistic tax and succession planning, and ensuring the optimal growth of the trust assets. It is in the best interest of the trust that this person also has sufficient knowledge of the impact of statutory requirements, such as compliance with relevant tax law and the effect of changes in legislation on the trust.

All trustees assume significant responsibility when accepting an appointment as a trustee and careful consideration must be given before accepting such an appointment. Any breach of fiduciary duties by any trustee, including the independent trustee, will result in significant exposure for the trustees. Furthermore, any action taken by the trustees on behalf of the trust while the proper number of trustees is not appointed by the Master of the High Court will be null and void.

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)