Author Archives: Toksentjops

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.

  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)

Antenuptial contracts: With or without the accrual system?

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?

Once 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)

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’ 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)

The benefits of creating a trust

Trusts 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)

Is the tenant or landlord responsible for the water leaks?

Questions, 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.

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)

Why is my property transfer taking so long?

After signing a deed of sale, the purchasers often want to move into the property as soon as possible. When they are informed of the process involved prior to the property being transferred this may damper their excitement. There may also be delays in the transaction. In order to avoid unnecessary frustration, it is vital that parties to the transaction understand the processes involved and that delays are sometimes inevitable.

The deed of sale will normally be the starting point in a transaction for a conveyancer who has been instructed to attend to the transfer. This conveyancer is also known as the transferring attorney and is normally the main link between the other attorneys involved the transfer transaction.

Postponements, delays and interruptions

  • A major role of the conveyancer is informing any mortgagees, for example banks, about the transfer so that any notice periods for the cancellation of bonds can start running. The notice period is usually up to 90 days. The transfer may be delayed as a result of this notice period.
  • Obtaining the various certificates, receipts and consents applicable to the transaction in question also takes time. Examples of these is the rate clearance certificate, transfer duty receipt, homeowners’ association’s consent to the transfer, levy clearance certificate, electrical compliance certificate and plumbing certificate. The time it takes to obtain these certificates will differ from case to case. After an inspection by a plumber or electrician, for example, it may be found that certain work needs to be carried out before the certificates will be issued.
  • Once all the documents are lodged at the Deeds Office by the conveyancer, an internal process is followed, which has different time frames in the various Deeds Offices. This time frame can also vary in a particular Deeds Office. It is best to enquire from your conveyancer what the Deeds Office time frame is at any given stage.

There are many ways in which the transfer process could be delayed, these are just some of the examples. If you feel that the process is taking too long, then you should contact your conveyancer.

Reference:

  • Aktebesorging, UNISA 2004, Department Private Law, Ramwell, Brink & West

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)

New traffic rules approaching

Up until this point, many people have not paid attention to the traffic rules, or simply not cared. That is about to change with new, stricter traffic regulations being introduced onto South Africans roads in the coming months. This is particularly important for those who take speed limits for granted.

What are the new rules?

The new regulations from the Department of Transport are expected to be implemented from 11 May, 2017.

These new regulations include:

  1. Drivers will have to undergo a practical re-evaluation when renewing a licence;
  2. A complete review and revamp of the current K53 test;
  3. Speed limits to be reduced from 60km/h to 40km/h in urban areas, from 100 to 80km/h in rural areas and from 120 to 100km/h on freeways running through a residential area; and
  4. Goods vehicles above 9,000kg GVM to be banned from public roads during peak travelling times.

A long overdue K53 revamp

Apart from the new road rules, the K53 learner’s manual will be getting a review to cater for the developments in cars and road users.

  1. The review would include updates and improvements suggested by examiners, the driving school industry, and the general public.
  2. The code 10 test for heavy motor vehicles such as buses and trucks would also be reviewed, to ensure people did not choose it because it was easier than the code 8 test for light motor vehicles.

Conclusion

Breaking the speed limit is never a good idea, and although it may not lead to your imprisonment, it could still result in a lengthy, and unnecessary, court process.

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 Consumer Protection Act and your rights

The South African Consumer Protection Act, No. 68 of 2008 was signed on 24 April 2009 and the purpose of the Act is to protect the interests of all consumers, ensure accessible, transparent and efficient redress for consumers who are subjected to abuse or exploitation in the marketplace and also to give effect to internationally recognised consumer rights. The Consumer Protection Act define a consumer as any person to whom goods and services are marketed, who is a user of the supplier’s goods, enters into a transaction with the supplier or service provider of any services and products.

If you have a complaint and the supplier won’t resolve it for you, you can complain to your provincial Consumer Affairs Office or the National Consumer Commission as well as other bodies.

The Consumer Protection Act:

  1. ensures that you are treated as an equal and protects you against discrimination in economic transactions.
  2. protects your privacy and ensures fair practice when goods or services are marketed to you.
  3. means you have the right to choose the agreements you enter into and continue with.
  4. gives you the right to the disclosure of information so that you can make informed choices.
  5. protects you against fraud and other dishonest practices.
  6. makes sure that you don’t have to agree to unfair conditions in the small print.
  7. allows you to return things which don’t work properly.
  8. protects you against goods and services that can harm you.
  9. makes suppliers compensate you if they have caused you a loss.
  10. ensures that you are educated on consumer issues and the results of your choices.
  11. makes it possible for you to form groups to promote your interests.

The Consumer Protection Act can help consumers in dealings which involve advertising, marketing, promoting, selling, supplying and delivering or repairing of goods and services in South Africa.

You are a consumer if you have made a deal with a supplier, for example, when you pay for goods or services, or if goods or services are marketed to you.

Goods include things, but also information and data and the licence to use it. Services include receiving advice or training you pay for, transport of people or goods, transactions at restaurants and hotels, entertainment and access to electronic communication. Employment relationships, credit agreements, deals between two private consumers and goods or services supplied to government do not fall under the Consumer Protection 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 validity of tax invoices – it is your responsibility

The audits of Value-Added Tax (VAT) returns by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), have increased the focus on the validity of tax invoices for the purposes of VAT.

A VAT vendor submitting VAT returns is responsible for ensuring that all invoices included in the returns comply with the relevant legislation. If valid tax invoices cannot be provided at the time of a VAT audit, the vendor may lose up to 100% of the input tax being claimed on the invoice, even if an amended valid invoice can be provided subsequent to the audit. Furthermore, serious penalties, interest and other consequences may be imposed on the VAT vendor for errors, intentional omissions and fraud.

The requirements

Section 20 of the Value-Added Tax Act, no 89 of 1991, together with the VAT404 Guide for Vendors as updated in March 2012, sets out the requirements for a valid tax invoice.

A VAT vendor must issue a tax invoice within 21 days of the supply having been made where the consideration for the supply exceeds R50, whether the purchaser has requested this or not. If the consideration for the supply is R50 or less, a tax invoice is not required. However, a document such as a till slip or sales docket indicating the VAT charged by the supplier, will be required to verify the input tax.

The requirements for tax invoices of which the consideration or taxable supply is more than R5 000 are:

  1. the words “tax invoice” should be displayed;
  2. name, physical address and VAT registration number of the supplier name, physical; address and VAT registration number of the recipient;
  3. original serial number of the tax invoice;
  4. the date of issue of the tax invoice;
  5. full and proper description of the goods sold and / or services rendered;
  6. quantity or volume of goods and / or services supplied; and
  7. total amount of the invoice and VAT amount in South African currency (except for certain zero-rated supplies).

The requirements for tax invoices of less than R5 000 are:

  1. the words “tax invoice” should be displayed;
  2. name, physical address and VAT registration number of the supplier;
  3. original serial number of the tax invoice;
  4. the date of issue of the tax invoice;
  5. full and proper description of the goods sold and / or services rendered;
  6. total amount of the invoice and VAT amount in South African currency (except for certain zero-rated supplies).

Second-hand goods

In the case of second-hand goods purchased from a non-vendor, the purchaser has to record the following information:

  1. name, address and identity number of the supplier, confirmed by the person’s identity document or passport. (If the value of the supply is equal to or greater than R1 000, a copy of this document must be retained by the purchaser. If the non-vendor is a juristic person, a letterhead or similar document stating the name and registration number of the juristic person is required);
  2. date of acquisition;
  3. quantity or volume of goods;
  4. description of the goods;
  5. total consideration paid for the supply; and
  6. declaration by the supplier stating that the supply is not a taxable supply.

Conclusion

If a vendor fails to deduct an input tax in respect of a particular tax period, that input tax may be deducted in a later tax period, but limited to a period of five years from the date that the particular supply was made. However, when a vendor becomes aware of an output tax not declared in the relevant period, a corrected VAT return for that specific period should be submitted. It is not acceptable to declare the output tax in the next period and SARS may impose penalties and interest on the output VAT omitted.

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)