Am I still liable for my spouse’s debt after divorce?

A husband and wife buy a house together. Their marriage takes a tumble, along with their ­finances, and they have to sell their home and are left with an outstanding mortgage bond. They subsequently got divorced. The couple is concerned about what will happen to the debts and who will be ­responsible for paying them.

Who pays what after divorce?

If the couple was married in ­community of property, the debt on the property is a joint debt. They will be jointly and severally liable. This means that each partner is not just liable for half the debt now that they are divorced, in fact the bank can seek the full amount from either of them. The one spouse who is held liable by the bank would then have a claim of 50% of the debt against the other, but it would be his or her responsibility to collect that debt (not the bank’s). Alternatively, the bank may agree to accept 50% from one person and release them from the ­liability, but it does not have to.

Sometimes, the divorce settlement makes a special mention of the mortgage. But if there is no clause in the divorce, the joint liability principle applies. After a divorce, the husband and wife should present their bank with a copy of the divorce settlement. This will remove any uncertainty about ownership and liability for bond payments.

Getting divorced while under debt review

If you get divorced while you are under debt review and you have the debt review court order in place, then this will need to be rescinded and for new debt counselling applications to be started, as in order to follow on with the debt counselling process you will need to reapply, but will now need to be seen as two single applications. A new budget and new proposals will also have to be drawn up.

References:

  • “Debt And Divorce”. News24. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.
  • “Debt Review After A Divorce Settlement – Debt Review”. Debtbusters. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.

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

My ex’s new partner is abusive to my children

It is important for a child to have access to both parents, and in a situation where both parents were actively involved in the child’s life, the access to both parents should be as equal as possible. As much as you don’t want to pry on your ex’s time with your children, what should you do if your ex’s new partner is abusive towards your child? Section 28(1)(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states that every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.

What defines abuse?

  • Physical Abuse: This type of abuse is one where the abuser conducts an act which leads to physical bodily harm such as bruises, cuts, burns and fractures.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse constitutes domestic violence, and is identified as a pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct towards the child.
  • Verbal Abuse: This kind of abuse may be harder to differentiate from emotional abuse; verbal abuse is the act towards the child, and emotional abuse is the result.

What to do?

A parent cannot stop the other parent from having access to a child. Visitation must be in accordance with the parenting plan. The Children’s Act stipulates that the rights of the children are the most important, and their rights should be protected, promoted and respected. The child’s emotional and intellectual needs are considered when making decisions about what is best for the child.

  • Firstly, try to speak to the person whom you have joint custody with, to try to come up with a solution before approaching legal representatives.
  • If this fails, report the suspected abuse. This report will serve in your child’s favour when in court.
  • Apply for the amendment of the parenting plan. This can include limited visitation which should be administered through the Office of the Family Advocate.
  • Only three people may request amendment or termination of the agreement:
  1. Parents of the child,
  2. The child, or
  3. A person who is acting in the interest of the child.
  • Rights can be minimised or terminated by the court

References:

  • The Children’s Act Explained. (2017). [ebook] p.3. Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/vg/children/dsd-Children_Act_ExplainedBooklet1_June2009.pdf [Accessed 12 Jun. 2017].

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)

Managing disputes over a deceased relative’s estate

The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, determines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process is legal. However, if the estate is worth a lot of money or the deceased has children, then it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney, as family disputes and debts of the deceased can be confusing. In order to this an executor will be appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

Finding the will of a deceased relative

If the deceased person left a will the first thing to do is find it. If they did not tell you beforehand where their will was, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the office of the master of the High Court to check if they have a copy of the will. Other places to call would be the deceased’s life insurance company, bank or lawyer. Otherwise, they might have left a copy of it somewhere secure in their home.

Who is the executor?

An executor is the person appointed to handle the process of settling the estate. The executor will either be mentioned in the will of the deceased or appointed by the master of the High Court. The master will ultimately decide who will take the role of executor. If the chosen executor doesn’t know how to handle the estate or is unfamiliar with the legal procedure, he or she can go to a lawyer for help. Once the executor has been chosen, the master will give them “Letters of Executorship”, which will give only them the authority to handle the estate.

What does the executor need to do?

The executor has several responsibilities such as arranging the valuation of the estate’s property and assets. They will also be responsible for contacting and dealing with all the beneficiaries.

Some other responsibilities of the executor include:

  1. Arranging provisional payments for the family’s immediate needs.
  2. Opening a bank account for the estate and depositing the estates money in it.
  3. Paying all the necessary estate duties.

It’s important that any person who wants to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate have the Letters of Executorship. If not, their actions would be considered illegal. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased person. This eliminates the possibility of several different family members trying to influence the estate’s dealings. The executor will also decide how the assets will be divided between the heirs and if any or all assets need to be sold. If a will is in place the executor will base his/her decisions on it.

Eventually, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This would include what will they intend to do with all the assets left after expenses. This account would be delivered to the master, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of the deceased and that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Important things to keep in mind?

The master of the High Court should be notified of the deceased person’s estate not later than 14 days after the death. According to the Department of Justice a death of anyone who owned property in South Africa must be reported to the master, whether or not they died in the country.

References

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2012. “Reporting the estate of the deceased”. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/services/report-estate.html/ on 11/05/2016.

Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/ on 11/05/2016.

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 Basics of Estate Duty

When a person dies, they leave behind an estate which includes everything they own. Estate Duty is payable on the estate of every person who dies and whose nett estate is in excess of R3,5 million. It is charged at the rate of 20%. Currently, SARS is responsible for collecting the Estate Duty of a deceased person.

How does an estate get reported to SARS?

Even if Estate Duty does not apply to you, it is still necessary to inform SARS that the person is deceased. It is recommended that you consult with a legal expert when going through such as process.

Copies of the following documents must be sent to SARS:

  1. Death certificate or death notice.
  2. Identity document of the deceased.
  3. Letters of Executorship (J238) (if applicable).
  4. Letter of Authority (J170) (in cases where the estate is less than R250 000).
  5. Certified copy of the executor’s identity document.
  6. Power of attorney (if applicable).
  7. The name, address and contact details of the executor or agent.
  8. The last Will and Testament of the deceased.
  9. An inventory of the deceased’s assets.
  10. The liquidation and distribution accounts (if available).

These documents may be sent to the relevant Centralised Processing Centres that is closest to the Master of the High Court where the estate is being administered.

How does Estate Duty work in relation to an inheritance?

All income received or accrued before the deceased’s death is taxable in the hands of the deceased up until the date of death, and will be administered by the executor or administrator acting as the deceased’s representative taxpayer.

  1. After the date of death of a person, a new taxable entity comes into existence – the “estate”.
  2. The assets of the deceased will be held by the estate until the liquidation and distribution account has lain for inspection and become final under section 35(12) of the Administration of Estates Act after which the assets will be either handed over to the heirs or delivered to the trustee of a trust estate.

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)

Immediate steps following the death of a loved one

The death of a loved one is a difficult process to go through, and when the inevitable occurs, it is important to remember what happens next. The cause of death is determined under 2 categories: natural death, such as illness or heart attack, and unnatural death, such as a suicide or an accident.

Natural or unnatural death

If the deceased has passed in their home, and cause of death is suspicious, the family is required to contact the South African Police Service (SAPS) to conduct an immediate investigation before contacting the mortuary. In the event where death is natural, the family is required to contact medical professionals to determine the nature of the death, and sign certification of the cause of death.

Death certificate

A prescribed certificate may be issued by the medical practitioner if the death is ruled as natural, either following a period of illness, or a medical examination. Should it be suspected that the death is unnatural, the certificate may only be issued to the concerned police officer after an investigation where the corpse is no longer required for further examination.

An autopsy is not deemed necessary should the death be ruled as natural.

Registration of death may take be done the following places:

  •  Department of Home Affairs
  •  SAPS, if there are no Home Affairs offices available
  •  South African Embassy or Consulate, should the death have occurred abroad
  • Registered funeral undertakers

An abridged death certificate is issued on the same day of registration, free of charge.

References

Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992. (2017). [PDF] Cape Town: Government Gazette. Available at: http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/a51_1992.pdf [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017].

Dha.gov.za. (2017). Department of Home Affairs – Death Certificates. [online] Available at: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/death-certificates1 [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017].

Grange, H. (2017). What to do when someone dies | IOL. [online] Iol.co.za. Available at: http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/what-to-do-when-someone-dies-1810336 [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017].

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 does inheritance work?

When someone dies they normally have what is called a ‘will’. The people who benefit from this ‘will’ are known as the heirs. Upon someone death, the heirs receive an ‘inheritance’. The person who administers the will of the deceased is called an ‘executor’.

What legislation affects inheritances?

South Africa’s inheritance laws apply to every person who owns property in South Africa.

The three main statutes governing inheritances in South Africa are:

  1. The Administration of Estates Act, which regulates the disposal of the deceased’s estates in South Africa;
  2. The Wills Act, which affects all testators with property in South Africa;
  3. The Intestate Succession Act, which governs the devolution of estates for all deceased persons who have property in the Republic and who die without a will.

All property located in South Africa is subject to these laws, and there are no separate laws for foreigners. Immoveable property is not treated any differently to other types of moveable assets for inheritance purposes. Inheritance issues of foreigners and South African citizens are primarily dealt with by the Master of the High Court; however, if a dispute arises, then the case can be heard in any High Court of South Africa.

Foreigners who acquire immovable property in South Africa through purchase or inheritance must register their transfer of ownership by registering a deed of transfer with the Registrar of Deeds in whose area the property is situated. The process of registering a deed of transfer is carried out by a conveyancer, or specialised lawyer, who acts upon a power of attorney granted by the owner of the property.

Tax and inheritance

In South Africa, there is no tax payable by the heirs who get an inheritance. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is also not payable by the recipient of an inheritance. Estate Duty and CGT, where applicable, are usually payable by the estate. If it is a foreign estate, it will be subject to the taxes of its country of origin.

What about donations or gifts?

Donations and gifts are treated differently to inheritance. For individuals, donations are subject to a Donations Tax of 20%, with an annual exemption of up to R100,000 of the value of all donations made during the tax year.

l Non-residents are not subject to Donations Tax. However, in cases where the resident donor transfers his property to a non-resident (donee), and the resident donor fails to pay the Donations Tax, the non-resident (donee) and the resident (donor) will be jointly and severally liable for the tax.

l Donations between spouses are exempt from Donations Tax, as are donations made to certain public benefit organisations.

Reference

The South African Revenue Service (SARS)

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 I sue a shopping centre if I slip and fall?

By law, owners of businesses or property are required to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the general public. At minimum, owners or managers are required to warn the public of any potential dangers they have caused, are aware of or believe could occur.

So if a shopping centre has not met these requirements and you’re injured on their property as a result, you may have a valid claim. These are a few examples of the requirements shopping centres should have in place:

  • demarcate dangerous areas;
  • remove obstructions from walkways;
  • light an area adequately;
  • repair holes and cracks in the pavement; and
  • put up railings or barriers.

 Would my claim be valid?

The law does not require individuals to watch their every step. It is reasonable to assume that people look around them as they browse grocery shelves at the shops. A successful slip and fall claim is mainly dependent on proving that the injured person was less negligent than the owner of the premises where they were injured.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would a reasonable person, such as a property owner, foresee the reasonable possibility that his management or administration may injure another person, causing them to slip and fall?
  • Could the property owner have done something to prevent the accident that resulted in the claim. For instance, could the occurrence of a slippery floor have been prevented and could it have been mopped up before someone climbed the stairs?
  • Did the owner take steps to prevent the accident?

Details to collect if you want to make a claim

  • The details (name, contact number and address) of the person in charge of the premises.
  • Take photographs of the area where you were injured.
  • You must contact the legal representatives of the business.
  • You must get the relevant medical documents as well as the invoices detailing the procedures.

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

With 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? 

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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? 

  1. You will be arrested for being over the limit: If you are suspected of driving over the limit, you will be Breathalysed.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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)

Owning property without a will

If you die without a will, an administrator will have to be appointed to administer your estate which will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. As such, your assets may not be distributed as you would have wished. It also means that the process will be delayed and that there will be additional expense and frustration which most people would not want to inflict on their loved ones during a time of loss.

Marriage and property

When drafting your will, it’s important to consider the nature of your relationship with your ‘significant other’. If you are married in community of property, you only own half of all assets registered in your name and that of your spouse. Your spouse therefore still remains a one half share owner of any fixed property you may want to bequeath to a third party which could potentially present difficulties.

If you are married in terms of the accrual regime, the calculation to determine which spouse has a claim against the other to equalise the growth of the respective estates only occurs at death. Your spouse may therefore have a substantial claim against your estate necessitating the sale of assets you had not intended to be sold.

Alongside your will, you should also prepare the following in relation to any immovable property you may own:

  1. State where your title deeds are kept and record any outstanding bonds and all insurance
  2. File up-to-date rates and taxes receipts
  3. Record details of the leases on any property you have
  4. State who collects your rent
  5. State who compiles your yearly accounts
  6. State where your water, lights and refuse deposit receipts are kept

 If you die without a will

According to the according to Intestate Succession Act, 1987, your estate will be distributed as follows:

  1. Only spouse survives: Entire estate goes to spouse.
  2. Only descendants survive: Estate is divided between descendants.
  3. Spouse & descendants survive: The spouse gets R250 000 or a child’s share and the balance is divided equally between the spouse and descendants.
  4. Both parents survive: Total share is divided equally between both parents.
  5. One parent: Total Estate goes to the parent.
  6. One parent & descendants: Half the Estate goes to the parent; balance is divided equally amongst descendants.
  7. No spouse; No descendants; No parents; but descendants through mother & descendants through father: Estate divided into two parts: half to descendants through mother; half to descendants through father.
  8. No spouse; No descendants; No parents; No descendants through mother or father: Full Proceeds of the Estate has to be paid into the Guardians Fund in the event of no descendants whatsoever.

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 I amend my will?

Having a will is a final statement of how you want your assets to be managed after your death. However, sometimes you may want to change it. You may have had a child, for example, and what to add him/her into your will. You may have also acquired more assets and would like to reconsider how they get divided among your possible heirs.

What is a codicil?

When you want to add something to your will or make a minor change, then you can make use of a codicil. A codicil is a schedule or annexure to an existing will, which is made to supplement or to amend an existing will. A codicil must comply with the same requirements for a valid will. A codicil need not be signed by the same witnesses who signed the original will.

What if I want to amend my will?

  1. Amendments to a will can only be made while executing a will or after the date of execution of the will.
  2. Amendments to a will must comply with the same requirements for a valid will and if you cannot write, with the same requirements listed under that heading.
  3. When amending a will, the same witnesses who signed the original will need not sign it.

 Must I amend my will after divorce?

A bequest to your divorced spouse in your will, which was made prior to your divorce, will not necessarily fall away after divorce.

  1. The Wills Act stipulates that, except where you expressly provide otherwise, a bequest to your divorced spouse will be deemed revoked if you die within three months of the divorce.
  2. This provision is to allow a divorced person a period of three months to amend his/her will, after the trauma of a divorce.
  3. Should you however fail to amend your will within three months after your divorce, the deemed revocation rule will fall away, and your divorced spouse will benefit as indicated in the will.

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)