Tag Archives: Marriage

Antenuptial contracts: With or without the accrual system?

A1_If you don’t have an ANC, you are automatically married in community of property. This means that there is one estate between a husband and a wife. Everything is shared equally between spouses, which includes debts. However, with an antenuptial contract, the estates of each spouse remain separate. The difference comes with the addition of the accrual system.

What is an antenuptial contract?

An ANC determines whether a marriage will be out of community of property with/without the accrual system. It must be signed by the persons entering into a marriage, two witnesses and a notary public, and it must be registered in the Deeds Registries office within the prescribed time period.

What is the accrual system?

The accrual system is a formula that is used to calculate how much the spouse with the larger estate must pay the smaller estate if the marriage comes to an end through death or divorce. Only property acquired during the marriage can be considered when calculating the accrual.

  • If there is no accrual system, then the spouses have their own estates which contain property and debts acquired prior to and during the marriage – nothing is shared.
  • The underlying philosophy of the accrual system is that each spouse is entitled to take out the asset value that he or she brought into the marriage, and then they share what they have built up together.
  • The accrual system only applies if the marriage ends – either by divorce or death. You cannot claim your share of the joint estate while you’re still married.

Whether or not you decide to include the accrual system in your antenuptial contract depends on the couple. Some may see the relevance while others do not.

It’s important that both of you consult the lawyer who’s drawing up the ANC because both spouses need to be fully aware of the consequences. It’s also important to see someone who’s neutral, and who can mediate what goes into your ANC, because emotions can cloud your judgment, and it can be a stressful negotiation if one spouse has a lot of assets and the other doesn’t, for example.

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)

CAN BREAKING-OFF AN ENGAGEMENT PROMPT LEGAL ACTION?

B4Once a couple has become engaged, you could say that they have concluded a verbal contract to get married. From that point, up until the marriage, the couple would be committed to getting married, as well as the planning and preparation leading up to it. However, in some instances, one of those in the relationship might decide to break off the engagement. This might seem unimportant, but what if the couple had gone to great lengths to plan the wedding and even went as far as changing lifestyles in the expectation of getting married. Would the person being left behind be able to sue for damages lost?

Does our law mention engagement?

Our common law has, over the years, recognised the principle that the aggrieved party has a claim for breach of promise. Traditionally this claim comprises two parts, namely:

  1. The delictual claim which the aggrieved party would have under the action injuriarum for contumelia, in other words, damages for the humiliation caused as a result of the break-up of the relationship; and
  2. The contractual claim for the actual financial loss suffered by the aggrieved party as a result of the break-up of the relationship of the parties.

In the Supreme Court of Appeal case Van Jaarsveld vs Bridges (2010), it was found that no claim in South African law exists other than actual expenses incurred in the planning and preparation of the marriage.

The judgement draws attention to a court’s right and more importantly, duty to develop the common law, taking into account the interests of justice and at the same time to promote the spirit of the Bill of Rights.

ES Cloete vs A Maritz (2013) WCH

The question whether or not the claim for breach of promise is a valid cause of action in South African law was once again considered in the Western Cape High Court. In this Court, Judge Robert Henney was the presiding Judge in the matter of ES Cloete vs A Maritz.

Miss Cloete claimed that Mr Maritz proposed formally to her in Namibia on the 9th February 1999 with an engagement ring, and she accepted. The relationship was turbulent and a decade later Maritz called off the engagement and the intended wedding. Cloete instituted action against Maritz and alleged that Maritz’s refusal to marry her amounted to a repudiation of the agreement which they had reached 10 years earlier. In his judgment, Judge R Henney said: “Clearly, to hold a party accountable on a rigid contractual footing, where such a party fails to abide by a promise to marry does not reflect the changed mores, morals or public interest of today.”

The judge also said: “As pointed out by Sinclair, The Law of Marriage Vol 1 (1996), to hold a party liable for contractual damages for breach of promise may in fact lead parties to enter into marriages they do not in good conscience want to enter into, purely due to the fear of being faced with such a claim.”

Conclusion

Divorce, which in earlier days was only available in the event of adultery or desertion, is now available in the event of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There is no reason why a just cause for ending an engagement should not likewise include the lack of desire to marry the particular person, irrespective of the ‘guilt’ of the latter.

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)

ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACTS: WITH OR WITHOUT THE ACCRUAL SYSTEM?

B3If you don’t have an ANC, you are automatically married in community of property. This means that there is one estate between a husband and a wife. Everything is shared equally between spouses, which includes debts. However, with an antenuptial contract, the estates of each spouse remain separate. The difference comes with the addition of the accrual system.

What is an antenuptial contract?

An ANC determines whether a marriage will be out of community of property with/without the accrual system. It must be signed by the persons entering into a marriage, two witnesses and a notary public, and it must be registered in the Deeds Registries office within the prescribed time period.

What is the accrual system?

The accrual system is a formula that is used to calculate how much the spouse with the larger estate must pay the smaller estate if the marriage comes to an end through death or divorce. Only property acquired during the marriage can be considered when calculating the accrual.

  • If there is no accrual system, then the spouses have their own estates which contain property and debts acquired prior to and during the marriage – nothing is shared.
  • The underlying philosophy of the accrual system is that each spouse is entitled to take out the asset value that he or she brought into the marriage, and then they share what they have built up together.
  • The accrual system only applies if the marriage ends – either by divorce or death. You cannot claim your share of the joint estate while you’re still married.

Whether or not you decide to include the accrual system in your antenuptial contract depends on the couple. Some may see the relevance while others do not.

It’s important that both of you consult the lawyer who’s drawing up the ANC because both spouses need to be fully aware of the consequences. It’s also important to see someone who’s neutral, and who can mediate what goes into your ANC, because emotions can cloud your judgment, and it can be a stressful negotiation if one spouse has a lot of assets and the other doesn’t, for example.

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)

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)

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DIE WITHOUT A WILL?

a2_bAttorneys often emphasise the fact that you should have a will drawn up and revise it regularly in order to facilitate the administration of your possessions after your death. Many people still neglect to do this. The problem is that, should a person die without leaving a valid will, in other words intestate, his/her estate will be administered and distributed according to the stipulations of the Intestate Succession Act, 1987.

Below is a basic example of the effect an intestate death will have on the distribution of an estate. Should the composition of the beneficiaries of the deceased be more complex, the administering of the estate in terms of the Intestate Succession Act will also become more complicated.

Let us assume that person A dies and the value of his estate is R1.8 million. He is survived by his wife (B) and two children, of which one is of age and the other is a minor.

Scenario 1:

A and B are married out of community of property.

B inherits R125 000 or a child’s portion, whichever is the largest.

A child’s portion is calculated by dividing the total value of the estate by the spouse and number of children, in other words R1.8 million/3 = R600 000.

The spouse and children therefore inherit R600 000 each.

Scenario 2:

A and B are married in community of property.

B inherits 50% of the estate due to the marriage in community of property.

B also inherits R125 000 or a child’s portion, whichever is the largest, with regard to the other half of the estate.

A child’s portion is calculated by dividing half of the total value of the estate by the spouse and number of children, in other words R900 000/3 = R300 000.

The spouse inherits R1.2 million and the children R300 000 each.

How does a minor receive their inheritance?

The inheritance of the minor will be paid to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund, as there is no will which determines that a minor’s inheritance should be placed in e.g. a testamentary trust, where the funds will be administrated on behalf of the minor until he/she becomes of age or reaches any other specified age.

The fact that the inheritance of a minor will be paid to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund may place the spouse in a dilemma such that he/she has to devise plans to finance the amount payable to the Master’s Guardian’s Fund to the benefit of the minor. Alternatively, she could register a mortgage against an immovable property in favour of the Master’s Guardian’s Fund.

When there’s no will

In the case of a death without a valid will there will be no person or institution appointed to support the surviving spouse in the administering of the estate. This should not usually present a huge obstacle, but the spouse should consider carefully which person or institution he/she appoints to assist them in this task. He/she should also negotiate the executor’s fee with the relevant person or institution before the administering of the estate commences.

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 I NEED AN ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACT BEFORE MARRIAGE?

An antenuptial contract is an important document that, under South African law, determines whether your marriage will exist in community of property or out of community of property, with or without the accrual system.

An antenuptial contract offers a number of benefits:

  1. Preventing your intended marriage from automatically being in community of property
  2. Offering transparency in your relationship by recording the rights, duties and consequences (legal and proprietary) of your marriage
  3. Preventing unnecessary disputes with your spouse down the line

What is marriage in community of property

There is one estate between a husband and a wife. Property and debts acquired prior to or during the marriage are shared equally in undivided shares (50%). Both spouses are jointly liable to creditors.

What is an Antenuptial contract?

A contract entered into to regulate whether a marriage will be out of community of property with/without the accrual system. An antenuptial contract must be signed by the persons entering into a marriage, two witnesses and a notary public, and it must be registered in the Deeds Registries office within the prescribed time period.

The accrual system

In a marriage out of community of property WITHOUT the accrual system, the spouses have their own estates which contain property and debts acquired prior to and during the marriage (“what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours”). Each spouse is separately liable to his/her creditors. Prior to the marriage, an antenuptial contract must be entered into to indicate that the marriage will be out of community of property.

A marriage out of community of property WITH the accrual system is identical to a “marriage out of community of property” but the accrual system will be applicable. The accrual system is a formula that is used to calculate how much the larger estate must pay the smaller estate once the marriage comes to an end through death or divorce. Only property acquired during the marriage can be considered when calculating the accrual. The accrual system does not automatically apply and must be included in an antenuptial contract.

Conclusion

After marriage, the terms of the antenuptial contract become irrevocable unless they are amended by an order of the Supreme Court or, in some cases, by a notarial contract which must be registered in a deeds registry.

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)

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE IN SOUTH AFRICA

A4_BIn South African law there is no such thing as a common law marriage. People simply believe that living together with another person for a continuous period of time establishes legal rights and duties between them. This is a common misunderstanding especially with young adults.

The only way to be protected in our law is to enter into a universal partnership agreement. Such an agreement clarifies the rights and duties of the partners. The agreement will determine what would happen to property and assets of the couple if they should decide to separate. The agreement is, however, not enforceable in so far as third parties are concerned. Only a valid marriage is enforceable against third parties. It is important to note that partners can sometimes be jointly and severally liable if they acted within the scope of the partnership. An agreement such as this will be legally binding as long as it contains no provisions that are immoral or illegal. If there is no agreement on the dissolution of a universal partnership agreement, a party would only be entitled to retain those assets which he or she has purchased and owns and further would be entitled to share in the assets proportionately in terms of the contribution which they have made to the partnership.

To prove the existence of such a partnership it must be shown that:

  • The aim of the partnership was to make profit.
  • Both parties must have contributed to the enterprise.
  • The partnership must operate to benefit both parties.
  • The contract between the parties must be legitimate.
  • There must be valid consent.
  • There is an intention to create a legally binding agreement.

Where there is no express agreement, a tacit agreement may be proved if it is found that it is more probable than not that such an agreement had been reached between the parties at the time of cohabitation.

Because the existence of a universal partnership is somewhat difficult to prove, and it may not be a claim that you wish to have to make or defend, it is advisable to consider entering into a contract that spells out how property should be dealt with on termination of the relationship by death or otherwise. Such a contract would provide some certainty for cohabitees regarding the division of assets and settlements of liability on termination of the relationship.

Some of the consequences of the absence of a legal ground between parties in such relationships are:

  • No exemption from donations tax in respect of donations between them.
  • Cohabitees do not benefit from the laws relating to the exemption from estate duty of bequests to spouses.
  • There is no reciprocal obligation of maintenance.
  • Cohabitee is not a recognised claimant if his/her partner dies intestate.
  • There is no right to property or assets that belong to cohabitee.
  • There is no reciprocal duty to contribute to household necessities.

The Domestic Partnerships Bill of 2008 is still in its formulation stage and it remains to be seen how it is to be implemented. In the current constitutional dispensation it is unlikely that a partner will be left in despair, taking into account the Domestic Partnerships Bill.

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).

ANNULMENT OF A MARRIAGE

A2_bConsent is an essential element of a valid marriage and the parties to a marriage must confirm before the marriage officer during a civil ceremony that they voluntarily consent to marry each other.[1] There are certain circumstances where it can be said that consensus was not present, and this will be discussed below.

Six months after John marries Laura they decide that they want to start a family. John finds out from the doctors that he is sterile and cannot have children. Laura is distraught and contacts her attorney, saying that she would never have married John if she had known that he could not have children.

Laura’s attorney explains to her the circumstances in which consensus will either be lacking or materially deficient, in which case the marriage can be annulled (set aside).

Firstly, a material mistake will result in a lack of consensus. A material mistake is limited to where there is a mistake as to the identity of your spouse or a mistake regarding the actual act of marriage in that you did not understand that the ceremony in which you took part resulted in marriage with the other party. In these circumstances there is uncertainty as to whether the marriage never came into existence or if it can be set aside. One may also make mistakes regarding the personal characteristics of your spouse. This may only be a ground on which the validity of the marriage can be challenged if these are material characteristics. The decision whether a mistake regarding a personal characteristic is material or not rests with the Court.[2]

Secondly, a misrepresentation by your spouse may justify the setting aside of a marriage if that misrepresentation relates to a material aspect of the marriage. In the scenario above, if John was aware of the fact that he was sterile before entering into the marriage with Laura, then Laura could attempt to prove that she was misled and state that if she was aware of John’s sterility, she would never have married him. However, if John was unaware that he was sterile, this is not a sufficient ground on which to set a marriage aside.[3]

Thirdly, if one of the parties was unduly influenced or placed under duress to marry the other party by any person including but not limited to the party to which they have been married, then there is no consensus and the marriage can be set aside.[4]

Fourthly, impotence, being the inability to have sexual intercourse, may be a valid ground for setting aside a marriage, but this will not be so if it was reasonably foreseeable at the time that the marriage was entered into that sexual intercourse wouldn’t take place based on factors such as age or illness.[5]

Fifthly, if the scenario above was altered to read that Laura was pregnant with another man’s baby at the time that she married John then he could apply to have the marriage set aside on the basis that this state of affairs would most likely result in an unhappy marriage. He may only make this application if he was unaware of the pregnancy at the time that they were married and if he has not waived his right to have the marriage annulled.[6]

Bibliography:

  • Robinson JA, Human S, Boshoff A, Smith BS, Carnelley M, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th, 2009, 92 – 94.
  • Heaton J, South African Family Law 3rd, 2010, 37.
  • Marriage Act, 25 of 1961.

[1] Section 30(1) of the Marriage Act, 25 of 1961.

[2] Robinson JA, Human S, Boshoff A, Smith BS, Carnelley M, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 92.

[3] Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 93.

[4] Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 93.

[5] Heaton J, South African Family Law, 3rd ed. (2010) 38; Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 94.

[6] Heaton J, South African Family Law 3rd ed. (2010) 37; Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 94.

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.