Monthly Archives: December 2016

Adopting a child in South Africa

a4bAdoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the child’s birth mother or father.

A legal adoption order ends the parental rights of the birth mother and father and hands over the parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents.
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There are 4 phases in the adoption process:

  1. Application

– In South Africa, the only way in which you can legally adopt a child is by working through an accredited adoption agency, or with the assistance of an adoption social worker, functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system.

– When working through an adoption agency, the process usually starts with the prospective adoptive parents submitting an application to the agency.

– Each agency has its own set of requirements – it’s a good idea to phone the particular agency to get their set of criteria before you actually apply in writing.

  1. Screening process

– All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process. This normally involves:

– orientation meetings,

– interviews with a social worker,

– full medical examinations,

– marriage and psychological assessments,

– home visits, and

– police clearance and the checking of references.

– The screening process allows social workers to get to know prospective adopters as a family, their motivation to adopt and their ability to offer a child a warm, loving and stable home.

  1. Waiting list

– Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. Applicants have their own ideas and wishes about the child they wish to adopt.

– They can decide about the age and sex of the baby or child they would like to adopt, and adoption agencies will try to meet those personal expectations.

  1. Placement

– The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court.

– Once the child has been with the new parents for a period of time, and the social worker has assessed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court.

– The child then becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents as if the child was born to them and has all the same rights as a biological child.

An adopted child is regarded as the biological child of the adoptive parent/s and all parental rights and responsibilities his/her biological parent/s or previous legal guardian/s had will be terminated. The adoptive child takes the surname of the adoptive parent/s (unless the Children’s Court states otherwise). An adoption will not affect the adoptive child’s rights to property s/he obtained before the adoption.

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)

Should I plan my estate as a young adult?

It 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)

Can surrogate parents get maternity leave?

a2bAlex and Ben are in love and decide to enter into a civil union on 31 October 2010 in terms of the Civil Union Act[1]. Everything is going great and a year later they decide as a couple to enter into a surrogacy agreement with a surrogate mother in terms of which they shall have a baby. The surrogacy agreement was in accordance with the Children’s Act[2] and was confirmed by Court Order.
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Ben and Alex discussed the logistics pertaining to their new bundle of joy. In terms of the Surrogacy Agreement they will be handed the child directly after birth, without the surrogate even catching sight of it. One or both of them will have to be available to care for the new-born from the moment of birth.

They decided that Alex would be the one to apply to his employer for paid maternity leave for a period of four months. This maternity application to his employer was in terms of the prescriptions of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act[3] (BCEA) and more specifically in terms of his company’s policy on maternity leave.

The company’s decision

Alex received feedback from his Human Resources Department, informing him that his application for maternity leave was rejected in terms of the company’s policy and the BCEA, as neither provides for the issuing of maternity leave for surrogate parents. As a counter offer Alex was offered and subsequently accepted two months paid adoption leave and two months’ unpaid leave.

Alex referred the dispute to the CCMA on the basis of unfair discrimination, because his company refused to grant his application for maternity leave due to the fact that he is not the biological mother of his child. They further argued that a commissioning parent party to a surrogacy agreement is not entitled, in terms of their company policy, to the full and due four months paid leave as females are under the same policy.

Alex was not at all satisfied with the treatment received by his company and he felt that he has been discriminated against, as the Children’s Act and the Civil Union Act both recognised his status and rights as a commissioning parent. There was therefore no excuse as to why his company and the BCEA should not recognise it as well.

The CCMA, upon hearing the matter, established that Alex’s company’s policies were similar but more stringent than the BCEA in that they provided separately for adoption leave as offered to Alex and Ben, and not at all for surrogacy rights to leave. Furthermore, it came to light that due to recent legislative developments as mentioned above, there was no reason why Alex should not be entitled to maternity leave and that such maternity leave should be granted for the full and/or same period as any other mother is entitled to.

Upon hearing submissions from Alex, Ben and Alex’s employer the CCMA decided that by refusing Alex’s application for maternity leave Alex was unfairly discriminated against by the company in its implementation and structure of its archaic maternity leave policy.

The result

The CCMA ordered that Alex be paid an amount equivalent to two months’ salary for the previously granted unpaid leave. In addition, Alex’s company must recognise the status of parties to a civil union and not discriminate against the rights of commissioning parents who have entered into a surrogacy agreement, in applying its maternity leave policy. The company was also ordered to pay Alex’s costs of having to bring this application.

Legislative intervention is needed in this regard in order to adequately and undeniably address the rights of commissioning parents to maternity leave. This case pertained to company policies and was addressed as such, but Alex and Ben initially sought relief for themselves and other similarly placed applicants so as to prevent unfair discrimination against them in this regard.

References:

  • [1] Act 17 of 2006
  • [2] Act 38 of 2005; Chapter 19
  • [3] Act 75 of 1997; Section 25 (hereinafter BCEA)

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 you need to know about estate planning

The main aim of planning your estate is to ensure that as much of the accumulated wealth is utilised for your own benefit and for the benefit of your dependents on your death.

What is estate planning?

“Estate planning” has been defined as the process of creating and managing a programme that is designed to:

  1. Preserve, increase and protect your assets during your lifetime;
  1. Ensure the most effective and beneficial distribution thereof to succeeding generations.

It is a common misconception that it revolves solely around the making of a Last Will and Testament, or the structuring of affairs so as to reduce estate duty. Each person’s estate is unique and should be structured according to his/her own unique set of circumstances, goals and objectives.

What is liquidity?

The lack of liquidity on the date of death may cause for the deceased’s family members and dependents to suffer hardship, as certain assets might be sold by the executor to generate the cash needed.

Liquidity means that there should be enough cash funds to provide for:

  1. Paying estate duty;
  1. Settling estate liabilities and administration costs;
  1. Providing for other taxation liabilities that may arise at death, such as capital gains tax.

Technically the estate is frozen until such time as the Master of the High Court has issued Letters of Executorship.

Having no will…

If you die without executing a valid Last Will and Testament, your estate will be dealt with as an intestate estate, and the laws relating to intestate succession will apply. The Intestate Succession Act determines that the surviving spouse will inherit the greater of R250 000 or a child’s share. A child’s share is determined by dividing the total value of the estate by the number of the children and the surviving spouse. If the spouses were married in community of property, one half of the estate goes to the surviving spouse as a consequence of the marriage, and the other half devolves according to the rules of intestate succession. If there is no surviving spouse or dependents, the estate is divided between the parents and/or siblings. In the absence of parents or siblings, the estate is divided between the nearest blood relatives.

The executor remuneration

Executor’s remuneration is subject to VAT where the executor is registered as a vendor.

Where the value of the estate exceeds R3.5 million, estate duty will become payable on the balance in excess of R3.5 million, with the exception of the property bequeathed to a surviving spouse, which is exempt from estate duty and/or capital gains tax.

Land

Section 3 of the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act prevents the subdivision of agricultural land, and such land being registered in undivided shares in more than one person’s name is subject to Ministerial approval.

Minor children

A minor child is a person under the age of 18 years of age. Any funds bequeathed to a minor child will be held by the Guardian’s Fund, which falls under the administration of the Master of the High Court. These funds are not freely accessible, and are usually invested at below market interest rates. It is thus advisable to provide for minors by means of a trust.

Member’s interest

The Close Corporations Act provides that, subject to the association agreement, where an heir is to inherit a member’s interest (in terms of the deceased’s Will), the consent of the remaining members (if any) must be obtained. If no consent is given within 28 days after it was requested by the executor, then the executor is forced to sell the member’s interest.

Estate duty

Section 3(3)(d) of Estate Duty Act determines that where an asset is transferred to a trust during an estate planner’s lifetime, yet the estate planner, as trustee of the trust retains such power as would allow him to dispose of the trust asset(s) unilaterally for his own or his beneficiaries’ benefit during his lifetime, then such asset(s) may be deemed to be property of the estate planner and included in his estate for estate duty purposes.

In community of property

Where the parties are married in community of property, the surviving spouse will have a claim for 50 percent of the value of the combined estate, thus reducing the actual value of the estate by 50 percent. 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). Only half of any assets can be bequeathed.

Life insurance

The proceeds from life insurance policies can be used to:

  1. Generate income to maintain dependents while the estate is dealt with;
  1. Pay estate expenses: funeral, income tax, estate administration, estate duty.

All proceeds of South African “domestic” policies taken out on the estate planner’s life, where there is no beneficiary nominated on the policy, will fall into his estate on his death.

Where a beneficiary is nominated on the policy, the proceeds will be deemed property for estate duty purposes, even though they are paid directly to the beneficiary (subject to partial exemptions based on policy premiums).

Policies which are exempted from inclusion for estate duty purposes are buy and sell, key man policies, and those policies ceded to a spouse or child in terms of an antenuptial contract.

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)