ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACTS: CAN I GET ONE AFTER MARRIAGE?

B2Couples 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. There must be sound reasons for the proposed change.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

References:

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)

UNOPPOSED AND OPPOSED DIVORCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

B1My 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’ 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 the Sheriff’s fees and minor expenses for 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), but where the parties are representing themselves in a simple divorce, they should approach the Regional Court.

Reference:

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)

IS THE TENANT OR LANDLORD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WATER LEAKS?

B4Questions, and sometimes disputes, often arise between landlords and tenants regarding where the responsibility lies with the maintenance of a property. The simple answer is that tenants can generally only be held responsible for repairs/replacement on the property if the damage was caused by the tenant’s actions, or items that have a short life span, such as light bulbs.

On the other hand, alarm systems, auto gates and doors, locks, fixtures and fittings, appliances, or anything provided to the tenant are generally the responsibility of the owner to repair, unless damaged by the tenant.

Fair wear and tear

Damage due to fair wear and tear is the owner’s responsibility to correct. This includes situations where the property has, over time, experienced wear due to its use or age.

Examples would include:

  1. Fireplace chimneys: The landlord should maintain the fireplace e.g. having the chimney cleaned at appropriate intervals. Gardens, however, would require the tenant to do general maintenance.
  2. Blocked drains: This is usually due to tenant usage making it the tenant’s responsibility, but if blockage is due to tree roots, it would be the landlord’s responsibility.

Regarding appliances, as with any fixture or fitting, the landlord is responsible for repairs to appliances provided under the tenancy agreement unless the damage was caused by the tenant’s deliberate actions or negligence.

Tenants should report any damage on the property. If they fail to do this, they could find themselves held liable for any further damage due to lack of immediate attention to the initial problem. Furthermore, tenants are obliged to provide access for contractors to effect repairs.

Conclusion

If there is a water leak on the property, it would most likely be the landlord’s responsibility to fix. It is advisable for tenants to read and understand the lease agreement fully and for landlords to list as much as possible that needs to be maintained by the tenant. For example, if the unit has a garden that the tenant is responsible for maintaining, this should be mentioned in the lease.

Reference:

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)

HOW TO REGISTER A TRADEMARK IN 2017

B3If you have a business and wish to keep competitors from using, or misusing, your brand, then you should consider registering a trade mark for your company’s name and logo.

A trade mark can only be protected and defended under the Trade Marks Act, 1993, if it is registered. However, unregistered trade marks may be defended in terms of common law. The registration procedure results in a registration certificate which has legal status, allowing the owner of the registered trade mark the exclusive right to use that mark.

Where do I register a trade mark?

The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) administers the Register of Trade Marks which is the record of all trade marks that have been formally applied for and registered in South Africa.

A trade mark is only registrable if it serves the purpose of distinguishing the goods/services of one trader from those of another trader. Other points to remember include:

  1. It must not have become customary in your field of trade.
  2. It does not represent protected emblems such as the national flag or a depiction of a national monument such as Table Mountain.
  3. It is not offensive or contrary to the law or good morals or deceptive by nature or way of use.
  4. There are no earlier conflicting rights.

How to register a trade mark?

  1. Register as a customer on CIPC: Go to the CIPC website (www.cipc.co.za). If you are already registered as a customer, and know your customer code and password, then continue with the next step.
  2. Deposit funds: Deposit the application fee of R590 regarding every class and every trade mark applied for into the CIPC bank account using your customer code as reference.
  3. Conduct a search: In order to conduct a search, you can request a special search from CIPC, or you can conduct a cursory e-search yourself.

A registered trade mark can be protected forever, provided it is renewed every ten (10) years upon payment of the prescribed renewal fee.

To make the process easier and more successful, then contact your legal adviser, who can lodge a trade mark application on your behalf and ensure all your documentation is correct.

References:

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)

DO DEBTS LAST FOREVER?

B2Prescription was introduced as means of protecting South African consumers from dishonest credit providers, who are responsible for recklessly lending credit and have contributed to the detrimental debt crisis many South Africans face today.

What does prescription mean?

  • The Prescription Act 68 of 1969 (PA) says that a debt (payment of money) is extinguished/expired after the lapse (passing) of a specific time period.
  • South Africa has different laws which specify time periods, for example, the PA says contractual and delictual debts extinguish after 3 years from when prescription starts.
  • Prescription may be delayed or interrupted.

It is important to bear in mind that not all debt prescribes after a period of three years. Debt related to a cheque, for example, only prescribes after 6 years. The purpose of prescription in South Africa is to compel creditors and collections agents to collect money owed to them within a specified period and not delay collection so that it accumulates massive amounts of interest and costs.

What are the consequences of an extinguished debt?

  • The debtor is not liable to the creditor for a debt after the time period has lapsed.
  • The creditor may not institute legal action against the debtor for a debt.

When does prescription start?

As soon as the debt is due (a debt is due once the creditor can identify the debtor and the facts from which the debt arises).

  • If the debtor prevents the creditor from gaining knowledge of the debt (excluding debts arising from agreements) prescription runs from when the creditor has knowledge of the existence of the debt.

An important point to remember is that it’s perfectly legal for a debt collector or attorney to demand payment for a prescribed debt. It is up to a debtor to raise prescription as a defence.

References:

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)

HOW DO I CANCEL A LEASE?

B1What happens when a landlord or a tenant wants to cancel a lease? What rules and what legislation apply? What protection does the law provide?

If you want to end your lease early, this can be done in situations where:

  1. the Consumer Protection Act or Rental Housing Act applies, or
  2. there’s a clause in the contract that allows for early cancellation, or
  3. if both parties agree to it.

If, on the other hand, one of the parties wants to cancel because the other is in breach of the contract, then certain notice periods come into effect – the first of which being, of course, that the aggrieved party is required to give written notice for the breach to be remedied.

For tenants

  1. If your landlord is in material breach of the lease, then cancelling your lease early will not be in breach of the contract.
  2. If your landlord has met all the conditions of the lease and you decide to cancel your lease early, you will be in breach of contract unless the termination of the lease has been mutually agreed upon. Speak to your landlord before making any rushed decisions, chances are, you may be able to come to a mutual agreement whereby you are able to find a replacement tenant or sublet the property for the remainder of your lease.

For landlords

  1. Firstly, look to the provisions of the lease itself. Most leases contain a breach clause, which indicate a period of a number of days that are necessary to be given as notice to the tenant of a breach. If there is no breach period specified, it will be a ‘reasonable period’ in terms of the common law.
  2. If you give notice of the breach, and it is not remedied in the breach notice period, this means that you can take action to sue for whatever is owed or even issue summons and attach the tenant’s goods by evoking your landlord’s hypothec, but you cannot cancel the lease and evict.

When it comes to cancelling agreements, it is always best to consult a legal expert since doing something from your own understanding and experience could lead to a court case.

References:

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 BENEFITS OF CREATING A TRUST

A4bTrusts are well-known to facilitate effective estate planning and continuity planning strategies. That said, setting up a trust – whether an inter vivos (between the living) or a testamentary (created in a will) − should be carefully considered and not just implemented blindly.

The difference between testamentary and inter vivos trusts

  • A testamentary trust is established when a person (the founder) makes provision for establishing a trust in their will. The trust does not come into existence until the founder dies.
    .
  • An inter vivos trust is set up between the living. In other words, property is transferred before death to the trust by its founder and managed by the trustees for the benefit of another person or persons.

The death benefits of creating an inter vivos trust exceeds the cost – both in time and money. According to The Estate Duty Act, upon death, a duty is levied against your estate known as estate duty. The nett value of any estate will be determined by deducting all liabilities from your assets of your estate, both real and deemed.

Should you create a testamentary trust, upon death the assets are in your name and will need to be transferred to the trust posthumously, meaning all assets are taken into account when assessing the duty payable.

Advantages

Taking the above into account, here are some benefits you could experience from creating a trust:

  • Reducing estate duty:
    Inter vivos trusts can be used to minimise estate duty. No estate duty should be payable on assets owned by the trust as a trust does not die.
    .
  • Protection against creditors:
    As the trust’s assets are not owned by the beneficiaries, creditors do not have a claim on the assets. This advantage is especially important for people who could be exposed to potential liability. Companies as well as individuals are able to transfer assets into trusts.
    .
  • Efficient succession:
    Since trusts never die, beneficiaries will be able to continue enjoying the assets if one beneficiary were to pass away.

Disadvantages

Despite the advantages, there are also some disadvantages of having a trust. They include the following:

  • Costs:
    The costs of setting up a trust can be high. If assets are transferred into the trust, then transfer duty needs to also be paid.
    .
  • Duties of trustees:
    Trustees could find themselves personally liable for losses suffered by the trust if it can be proven that they did not act with care, diligence and skill according to Section 9 of the Trust Property Control Act.

References:

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 CONSEQUENCES OF DRINKING AND DRIVING

A3bWith the zero-tolerance approach the law has towards road users, it’s necessary to address the consequences of drinking and driving. Unfortunately, holidays and weekends often bring devastating road accidents, with families being injured and losing members due to drunk-driving related incidents.

What does the law say?

  • According to the Road Traffic Act 93/96, which has been in effect since March 1998, no person shall on a public road:
    • Drive a vehicle; or
    • Occupy a driver’s seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect.
  • No person shall on a public road:
    • Drive a vehicle; or
    • Occupy a driver’s seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken part of his or her body is not less than 0,05 grams per 100 millilitres.
  • If, in any prosecution for a contravention of the provisions of subsection (2), it is proved that the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of the body of the person concerned was not less than 0,05 grams per 100 millilitres at any time within two hours after the alleged offence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such concentration was not less than 0,05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the alleged offence.

What happens if you are caught?

  • You will be arrested for being over the limit:
    If you are suspected of driving over the limit, you will be Breathalysed.
    .
  • Your blood will be taken:
    If the Breathalyser tests positive, you will be taken into custody and sent for further testing at an alcohol testing centre.
    .
  • You will be detained:
    Once you have been arrested you will be taken to a police station, where you will be detained in the holding cells for at least four hours to sober up.

After your release, a docket will be opened and you will be allocated an investigating officer who will follow up your blood test results.

Conclusion

Getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol should not be an option. People should always use an alternative option, such as getting a lift with someone else, Uber, or using a taxi. Besides the fact that drinking and driving could cost you or someone else their life, it also has severe legal consequences.

References:

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)

MUST I REGISTER AS A CREDIT PROVIDER WHEN SELLING MY FARM?

A2bPurchasers have increasing difficulty obtaining financing for the purchase of farms and other agricultural land. Many sellers of these properties consider granting the purchaser a bond for the purchase amount, to be paid off over a period of time. Worse, some accept an acknowledgement of indebtedness and consent to judgment as sufficient protection, prior to shaking hands and signing off on the transfer agreements.

Previously, the mere registration of the bond or the notice confirming the instalment sale of a property registered at the Deeds Office was sufficient. Together with the required written agreement, it constituted protection to the incidental money lender in the event of a defaulting purchaser.

The National Credit Act

The National Credit Act has changed everything. The Act provides, inter alia, that in any credit agreement where the credit amount exceeds R500 000, the lender is to be registered as a credit provider. This includes the occasional private farm seller, even if it is a once-off arrangement with no intention by the seller to provide credit to any other person ever again. Failure to register as a credit provider prior to a transaction that can be defined as a “credit transaction” is a transgression of the Act.

The consequences

Should the credit provider not be registered and the purchaser defaults on the payment agreement, section 89(5) of the National Credit Act is unequivocally prescriptive on how the courts are to deal with such circumstances. The credit agreement is void as from the date it was entered into. The credit provider must refund all payments made in terms of the agreement together with stipulated interest. Most importantly, all purported rights of the credit provider to recover any money paid or the goods that were delivered to the consumer, are cancelled, or the property forfeited to the state, unless a court finds that such forfeiture will unjustly enrich the purchaser.

Many sellers, and even attorneys, are either unaware of this provision or blatantly flaunt the requirement as they “trust” the purchaser and “know” that the full repayment will be made, including the interest. The problem only manifests when the worst case scenario does occur and the well-known and trusted purchaser defaults on the payments. Many of the sellers who acted as credit providers relied on such repayments and interest either to fund another farm purchase or worse, their retirement.

Forfeiture of property

The Constitutional Court previously considered the validity of this section of the National Credit Act and specifically of the clause relating to forfeiture of the property to the state in the light of the Bill of Rights, regarding the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of property and the so-called Limitation clause. J van der Westhuizen delivered a majority judgement on 10 December 2012 which declared the arbitrary forfeiture of property to the state prescribed in section 89(5)(c) of the National Credit Act to be inconsistent with section 25(1) of the constitution, and thus invalid.

This judgement should, however, sound an urgent alarm to any and all unregistered credit-providing farm sellers. The intention of the National Credit Act is to discourage the provision of credit outside the framework set by the legislature. The Act thus has to punish those that do not comply with the requirements thereof, and the punishment is severe.

The punishment

Should the farm seller therefore not have registered as a credit provider, and the purchaser defaults on his payments, the seller is at risk – a very real and serious risk. Unless a court orders that the circumstances will unjustly enrich the purchaser, the seller may not only forfeit all payments and interest, but will have to obtain a court order that the seller is entitled to recover the farm from the defaulting purchaser.

If the credit agreement is unlawful as from inception in terms of the National Credit Act, the agreement cannot be enforced and the defaulting party cannot be compelled to perform. In the law, pursuance of such agreement must then be made in terms of unjustified enrichment, and specifically the conditio ob turpem vel iniustam causam. In short, the requirements are that the ownership must have passed with transfer, transfer must have taken place in terms of an unlawful agreement, and the claimant must tender back everything received.

However, to be successful the claimant must be able to prove that he acted free of turpitude and show that the actions were not dishonourable. The banker-playing credit-providing farm seller might not forfeit the farm as the court’s discretion has been unconstitutionally curtailed in section 89(5)(c), but is still far from the position he could have been in had he simply registered as a credit provider.

Conclusion

Civil obedience regarding the legislation of the country creates a stable, safe, just and equitable society with a strong economy and an affinity with investors. Compliance with the National Credit Act not only ensures confidence in immovable property as an investment, but will protect those who want to play banker.

For further reading see National Credit Regulator vs Fillippus Albertus Opperman and others, case number CCT34/12 [2012] ZACC 29 and case law quoted by both the majority judgement and descending judgment written by J Cameron.

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)

SHOULD I PLAN MY ESTATE AS A YOUNG ADULT?

A1bIt is very important for you to plan your estate, which could include a living will, a last will and a living trust. This can help families prepare for difficult times when you are no longer around to assist or advise them. Our lives get busier and more complicated by the day, so estate planning for young and old becomes increasingly important. Young people should consider preparing certain estate planning documents, and in particular financial powers of attorney and living wills.

At the age of 18 a young man or woman officially becomes an adult in the eyes of the world. This means that you are entitled to make important financial, legal or health decisions about your lives. But what if something happens and you are unable to make these decisions at a critical time? Such situations can range from a small inconvenience to a life-threatening crisis, but if your estate is in order, it can speak on your behalf.

Financial power of attorney

A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust, like another family member, to make financial decisions on your behalf. This document can be activated when you are incapacitated or right after it has been signed, and it will remain effective until you can resume charge of your own decisions again.

A financial durable power of attorney will allow the appointed person to handle important legal and financial matters on behalf of the grantor. In the case of a business or financial situation which involves the young adult, such as a passport or car registration renewal, it is convenient for the power of attorney to act on his/her behalf if they cannot tend to the problem. This arrangement may come in handy when there is a legal situation which requires quick action and the young adult is unable to attend. Families with a disabled family member can also benefit from the security of a power of attorney.

Living will

A living will enables you to state specific medical wishes if you are alive, but unable to communicate them. Artificial life support in the case of a coma or terminal illness is an issue often discussed in such a document. Preferences regarding administering of pain medication, artificial nutrition and other treatments can be dictated in this document.

The Terry Shaivo case shows what can happen if this document is not in place. The legal battle between her husband, family and state of Florida lasted for years before she was granted her wish and taken off life support.

Health care power of attorney

With this type of power of attorney, you give someone else the power to make health decisions on your behalf. These decisions regarding serious health and emotional crises will be made based on instructions which you have given to your power of attorney beforehand. Sometimes a living will is combined with a health care power of attorney, because both of these can be revoked, i.e. it can be cancelled at any time by destroying it, communicating your wishes to your doctor, writing a letter regarding the cancellation or by creating a new living will and health care power of attorney, indicating that the new will revokes all the previous ones.

Start the conversation

Every family’s legal needs are different, so perhaps you should take the first step in being prepared for the worst. Remember that every time your family composition changes, like when a child is born, you need to adapt your will to include them. Start the process and be prepared.

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)