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  • Who is a Legal Guardian?

    Who is a legal guardian?

    A client asked me when and how a person should appoint a guardian to look after minor children, on his or her death.

    Why is it so important to appoint a legal guardian for your children?

    On the death of the first dying parent, the surviving parent becomes the sole guardian. On his or her death, the legal guardian would be appointed. If the will does not nominate a guardian for the minor children, then a family friend or relative would have to apply to court, at some expense, to be appointed as the legal guardian.

    Usually, the will provides that the person who will manage the trust created in terms of the will (the trustee), and looks after the children (the guardian) are one and the same.

    Who should you appoint as a legal guardian (relative, best friend)?

    Guardians nominated in a will can choose if they wish to accept the office of guardian. On that basis, you should always approach a close family friend or relative, you know you can rely on, and who will accept the office of guardian.

    Ideally, the legal guardian should know the family well and can be depended on to act in the best interests of the minor children.

    When does the guardian’s legal role end?

    The legal guardian must administer the property that the minor children inherited, until each child attains majority (turns 18). The last dying parent may feel that a child of 18 is not mature enough to manage the property, and the will may provide that the guardian’s role will end only when the child turns, say, 21.

    Would the guardian also be responsible for the children financially?

    A legal guardian is entitled to be paid for administering the minors’ estate. This can be set out in a will or is determined in accordance with the tariff laid down by the Master of the High Court.

    There should be sufficient funds in the trust, created in terms of the will, to provide for the maintenance of the minor children. It would never be the responsibility of the legal guardian to provide for them, financially. The last thing the parent would want is that the executor must sell a fixed property to raise sufficient funds to maintain the children. If it means taking out a life policy to provide for the children, that is a good idea.

    ‘Maintenance’ generally means maintenance, education (including higher education), vocational training, setting him up in a business or a profession, accommodation, holidays, travel, general welfare and benefit and reasonable pleasures.

    The will should provide that the legal guardian does not have to put up security to exercise his duties and that he or she can manage the funds of the minor children. If the will is silent, the guardian is obliged to pay the cash funds into the Guardian’s Fund, managed by the state. In that event, the guardian would have to approach the Master of the High Court, cap in hand, for funds to maintain the children. This should be avoided at ...

  • Voetstoots and the CPA

    Voetstoots and the CPA
    Does the Consumer Protection Act, 2008 (“CPA”), which became effective on 1 April 2011, mean the end of the “voetstoots” or “as is” clause?
    What does voetstoots mean
    When you buy something, there is an implied warrantee that the thing sold is free from any defects. It is, however, possible that one can contract out of this implied warranty by inserting a term into the contract that says that the sale is voetstoots (that you buy the goods “as is” and cannot rely on the implied right to defect-free goods and complain later if you find certain defects in the goods).
    When the seller can’t rely on the voetstoots clause
    The common law does, however, allow you to cry foul and sue the seller (even if the contract contained a voetstoots clause) for cancellation of the contract or a reduction in the selling price where the goods were defective at the time of the sale, that the seller knew of the defect but failed to disclose it to the buyer, knowing full well that if the buyer knew about it he would either not have continued the purchase or would have negotiated a more favourable purchase price.
    The effect of the CPA on the voetstoots clause
    In terms of the CPA the consumer is entitled to receive goods that are reasonably suitable for the purpose for which they are generally intended, are of good quality, in good working order and free of any defects.
    The definition of “goods” has been amplified to include a legal interest in land or other immovable property.
    The CPA provides for a statutory duty of disclosure in consumer transactions. The Act expands on the common law obligation to disclose latent defects by requiring suppliers to disclose material facts and to correct misapprehensions on the part of the consumer, if failure to do so would amount to a deception.
    However, sellers can exclude themselves from this obligation by advising the consumer that the goods are being offered in a certain condition. The consumer must then agree to accept the goods in that particular condition. E.g. a motor dealer should explain that the beat-up Volksie is not new, point out the obvious and not-so-obvious defects and if the consumer accepts this, then the sale would be as-is.
    The only way sellers can get past the implied warranty is to describe the condition of the goods in specific detail to make it clear in which condition the goods are being sold. The buyer then has to has to “expressly agree” to accept the goods. Only if the buyer “knowingly acted in a manner consistent with accepting goods in (a less than ideal) condition” would the implied warranty of quality fall away. Every defect must be described in the contract of sale that the buyer signs.

    A defect is a material imperfection that renders goods less acceptable or less practicable. This includes obvious problems, or latent defects, and those hidden future problems, or ...

  • Right to relocate with a minor from Gauteng to the Cape

    Q: Been divorced for 8 years.  Dual custody over our 2 children aged 16 and 11 who reside with mother.

    Does the law require  that the mother has to approach the court for permission to relocate from Gauteng to the Cape?


    The test is what is in the best interest of the children.

    As a rule, you have a right to relocate with the minor children, unless a settlement agreement or a court order says otherwise. However, if the father objects, you will have to approach a court, and satisfy it that the move is sound.

    Please see

  • Freedom Of Testation

    Can I choose who to benefit in my will?

    In South Africa, a person can leave his or her assets to whoever he likes, with few limitations. This is called “freedom of testation“. If a person dies with a valid will, he or she dies “testate”, and without a valid will, he or she  dies “intestate”.

    Testate succession

    An executor (the person appointed to wind up the estate) must carry out the wishes of the testator (the person making the will) as far as legally possible. The freedom of testation is limited by the common law in these situations:

    • A provision in a will shall not be executed if (a) it is generally unlawful, (b) against public policy, (c) impracticably vague, or (d) impossible; and
    • The estate is obliged to support any minor and financially dependent children.

    There are certain acts that limit the testator’s freedom to choose his beneficiaries in his will, e.g.

    • In terms of the Pension Funds Act, the deceased can’t choose who to benefit. The decision will be up to the pension fund administrators;
    • A surviving spouse (who has been excluded from the will) may have a claim against the estate for maintenance in terms of The Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act;
    • If the testator disinherits his wife, and they are married with the accrual system, the wife has a claim against his estate for ½ the difference between the accruals (if her estate is the smaller of the two).

    Intestate Succession

    If a person dies without a will, his or her estate is wound up in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.

    This is not a detailed exposition of the law but a mere synopsis. Contact your lawyer for comprehensive advice.

  • Body corporate cut off electricity

    The Body Corporate switched off a client’s electricity, because he fell into arrears with his levies. He asked me what steps he could take to have his electricity switched back on.


    I advised: I would suggest that you have a look at the conduct rules of your body corporate. I would be most surprised if they allow the trustees to have acted in the way they have done.


    If the conduct rules don’t allow the trustees to cut off your electricity, you have two options. The first is to pay the amount that they claim, under protest, and then refer the dispute to the ombudsman:


    The Sectional Title Ombudsman
    1st Floor Building A, 63 Wierda Road East, Wierda Valley, Sandton
    T: +27 (010) 593 0533 │F: +27 (010) 590 6154 │

    This is a very recently appointed office and I have no idea what kind of response you will receive or how long the process will take. However, it will not cost you anything but time and effort.

    Your second option is to go to your closest Magistrate’s Court to see if they assist people in your position to obtain what is called a spoliation order (to restore the electricity on a basis of urgency). Some courts do assist, without charge. If they won’t, you will need to approach an attorney for help.

    If you can’t afford one, get help from the law clinic at your local university, the Legal Aid Board or check out

  • Common law marriage in South Africa

    A client asked me how long couple must live together, before they are regarded as being in a common-law marriage.

    Common-Law marriage

    In South African law, there is no such thing as a common-law marriage, no matter how long a couple may live together. Their cohabitation does not create any automatic legal rights and duties between them. This is a common misunderstanding.

    Cohabitation Agreement

    In an age when most marriages fail, parties with a trail of prior relationships and marriages behind them may prefer to live together, rather than marry. Same-sex or heterosexual partners who choose not to get married should sign a domestic partnership (also called a life partnership or cohabitation) agreement to protect them should their relationship end. It is cheaper than ending up in court!

    A widely-used definition describes “domestic partners” as “two adults who share an emotional, physical and financial relationship like that of a married couple but who either choose not to marry or cannot legally marry. They share a mutual obligation of support for the necessities of life.”

    Cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples under the law, so it makes sense to set out at the outset of the relationship what the division would be if the cohabitation breaks down.

    The life partnership agreement will provide for such things as:

    • Movable property:Provide for a fair division of household goods on dissolution. A good idea is to list the respective assets of the parties at the start of the relationship and agree whether or nor not these become joint assets. Similarly, keep a register of assets acquired during the relationship and agree whether these too become joint assets.
    • Immovable property:
    1. Who owns the home that you live in? If it is co-owned, deal with the proportion of your respective shares and who gets what, on dissolution.
    2. If it is solely owned, you may consider compensating the non-owner for improvements done to the property at his or her expense.
    3. If the common home is leased property, provide for who stays on when you part company.
    • Financial arrangements:
    1. During the relationship, will you operate a joint bank account? Who will pay the household and living expenses? Who will own cars and other assets? Who will enter into credit agreements? Will you take out life insurance on each other’s lives?
    2. When the relationship ends who pays the debts of the partnership?
    • Children: If you have or intend to have children, agree whether one partner is to support the other party during the relationship if such a partner is unemployed or staying home to care for small children born from the relationship.

    Universal Partnership Agreement

    If parties live together but don’t conclude any form of agreement regulating their respective legal rights and obligations, on dissolution of the cohabitation, a party that feels he or she is entitled to something from the other party (who disagrees), must go to court, at some expense, to prove that entitlement. To do so, the party must prove they were in a ‘Universal Partnership’, so that one party is entitled to certain property and assets of the other ...

  • If I am married in community of property, what can I leave in my will?

    A client asked: What are the implications when folks get married in community of property after a property was purchased in any one’s name, draw up a will and one passes away?

    If a couple get married in community of property, they share equally in the assets and liabilities of their joint estate (whether acquired or incurred before or during the marriage).

    So, if the husband owned a property before the marriage, on death or divorce, the wife becomes entitled to half the net value of the joint estate (i.e. half of all their combined assets less all its joint liabilities).

    What that means is that a spouse can only leave his or her half share of the joint estate, in a will. If a will says “I leave my estate to my mother”, “my estate” means his or her net half of the joint estate.


  • Must I amend my will after a divorce?

    In the aftermath of a divorce, a person often forgets to amend his or her will. A bequest to your divorced spouse in your will, which was made prior to your divorce, will not necessary fall away after divorce.

    The Wills Act provides that if you die within three months of the divorce, a bequest to your divorced spouse will be deemed cancelled (except where you expressly provide otherwise). Basically, this provision allows a divorced person a period of three months to amend his/her will, after the trauma of a divorce. Should you fail to amend your will within three months after your divorce, your divorced spouse will benefit as indicated in the will.

    So, be warned, if you don’t want your ex to benefit any longer, change your will.

  • Non compos mentis

    A client asked me if she could still act on a power of attorney that her mom signed in her favour, now that her mom had been diagnosed with dementia.

    At law, a power of attorney terminates on the incapacity of person (who becomes incompetent in law and is deemed “to be of unsound mind and as such incapable of managing his affairs”).

    Once the power of attorney becomes invalid, the family must apply for administration or curatorship.


    On behalf of the family, a lawyer applies to the High court for three things:

    • to declare the patient of unsound mind and incapable of managing his/her affairs;
    • to appoint a curator ad litem;
    • to appoint a curator bonis or curator personae or both;

    The curator ad litem is usually an advocate, who interviews two specialists regarding the patient’s mental facilities, and then reports back to the court whether the patient is of unsound mind and incapable of managing his/her affairs.

    If so, the court will appoint a curator. There are two forms of curatorship and one or both may be appointed:

    • the curator bonis administers the person’s property, including his finances;
    • the curator personae takes personal decisions for the person. This involves serious curtailment of the person’s rights and freedoms and the court is therefore not easily persuaded to grant such an appointment.


    The Mental Health Care Act provides for the appointment of an administrator to manage the patient’s property.  This Act applies only to the mentally ill and to those with severe or profound intellectual disability.

    It is not necessary to go to the high court for this as you can apply direct to the Master of the High Court.  A mental health care practitioner who could be a general practitioner and not necessarily a psychiatrist – certifies that the person suffers from an illness or disability relating to mental health.

    The administration applies only if the capital assets of the patient’s estate is under R200,000 or earns an income of up to R24,000 per year.

    The Master appoints an interim administrator to investigate the patient’s finances, etc. and makes a recommendation to the Master.  In this case the costs payable to the investigator are negotiated by the Master, and are payable out of the estate.

  • What to do after an accident

    By Roy Bregman

    Bregman Moodley Attorneys

    What are your duties after a crash? What are your rights if you are injured or your car is damaged?


    If you are involved in involved in or contribute to an accident on a public road in which another person is killed or injured or suffers damages in respect of any property or animal, in terms of the Road Traffic Ordinances there are clear duties imposed on you. Here is what you should do:

    • Stop your vehicle immediately. Of course, you do not need to stop at an accident if, for example, you hit a tree and only damage your own car or injure yourself. There is a legal and, indeed, a moral obligation on you to report a collision to your nearest police station if you hit a lamp standard or say a stationary vehicle and the accident is not witnessed.
    • Check the nature and extent of any injury to another person.
    • If the person has been hurt, do all you can to help by administering first aid, (if you know how), summons the police and, if necessary, an ambulance. If you know nothing about first aid, please do not try to render assistance as this may do more harm than good!
    • Determine the nature and extent of any damage suffered.
    • If you are required to do so by any person entitled to such information, provide and obtain the following information:
    • name, address and telephone number of both drivers name, address and telephone number of the owners of the vehicles
    • registration numbers of both vehicles
    • names of the driver’sowner’s insurance companyinsurance broker
    • full details of the place and time of the collision and the road conditions and visibility at the time
    • make a short note (to jog your memory) of what you recall occurred immediately before and at the time of the collision (including a description of what happened, the speed at which the vehicles were travelling, whether the lights were on or off, whether the other driver was indicating etc)
    • if you are fortunate enough to have a camera with you at the time of the collision, take photographs of the scene of the collision from various angles. If not, it is always a good idea to return to the scene as soon as possible thereafter, to take the necessary photographs
    • measure distances from the point of the collision to identifiable landmarks such as traffic lights, lamp standards, stop signs and the like and make a rough sketch showing the position of the vehicles immediately before and after the collision
    • if you are fortunate enough to have witnesses, make sure to take down their full names, addresses and telephone numbers
    • do not admit liability for the collision, whether to the driver of the other car, a bystander or to the Police, as this may prejudice any claim that you may have either against the other driver or in respect of your policy of insurance . On the other hand, if the other driver apologizes for the collision ...


    Tel: +27 (0)11 646-0335