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Lewensvennote kwalifiseer nou vir intestaatopvolging

Die Grondwetshof het onlangs, na die Oktober 2020 uitspraak van die Wes-Kaapse Hooggeregshof, bevestig dat artikel 1(1) van die Wet op Intestaatopvolging ongrondwetlik is indien dit lewensvennote in ‘n verhouding wat bedoel is om permanent te wees, uitsluit, volgens die definisie van “gade”. Die hof het beveel dat die parlement twee wette moet wysig om die reg van ‘n oorblywende lewensvennoot in enige verhouding te erken as ’n ergenaam en dat hulle onderhoud kan eis nadat die ander vennoot sterf.

Die saak het ontstaan nadat Jane Bwanya die grondwetlikheid van die Wet op Intestaatopvolging en die Wet op die Onderhoud van Oorlewende Eggenote betwis het weens diskriminasie op grond van huwelikstatus.

Me. Bwanya, oorspronklik van Zimbabwe, en die oorledene, Mnr. Ruch, was betrokke in ‘n verhouding wat die meeste, indien nie al die eienskappe van ‘n huwelik ingesluit het nie. Hulle het mekaar in 2014 ontmoet en ‘n romantiese verhouding aangegaan. Later daardie jaar het Mnr. Ruch vir Me. Bwanya gevra om permanent by hom in te trek. Me. Bwanya het ingestem. Van toe af het hulle hul tyd verdeel tussen Mnr. Ruch se eiendomme in Camps Bay en Seaways. Me. Bwanya het haar plek by die Meadows behou, waar sy as ‘n huishulp aangestel was. Me. Bwanya en Mnr. Ruch se vriende was bewus van die verhouding. Die paartjie het mekaar vergesel na verskeie sosiale byeenkomste. Mnr. Ruch het Me. Bwanya aan sy vriende as sy vrou voorgestel. Hulle het dikwels in die teenwoordigheid van ander mense omhels en gesoen. Mnr. Ruch het ook na Me. Bwanya se broer as sy swaer verwys.

In November 2015, het Mnr. Ruch voorgestel dat hulle trou. Me. Bwanya het die voorstel aanvaar. Voorbereidings om na Zimbabwe te reis het begin sodat lobola-onderhandelinge kon begin en Mnr. Ruch haar familie kon ontmoet. Hierdie voorbereidings het die verkoop van die Seaways-eiendom behels. Die opbrengs sou gebruik word om lobola te betaal en ‘n voertuig vir die reis na Zimbabwe aan te skaf. Die plan was dat die paartjie na hulle reis sou trou. Op 23 April 2016, twee maande voor die beplande reis, het Mnr. Ruch onverwags gesterf. In sy testament het hy sy ma as die enigste erfgename van sy boedel aangewys. Sy ma het egter voor hom gesterf.

Me. Bwanya het twee eise teen Mnr. Ruch se boedel ingedien ingevolge die Wet op Boedeladministrasie. Dit was vir onderhoud ingevolge die Wet op die Onderhoud van Oorlewende Eggenote en vir erfreg ingevolge die Wet op Intestaatopvolging. Sy het die eise gegrond op die feit dat haar permanente lewensvennootskap met Mnr. Ruch soortgelyk aan ‘n huwelik was en dat hulle wedersydse ondersteuningspligte teenoor mekaar vervul het.

Die eise was gegrond op die volgende: die oorledene was haar lewensvennoot, hulle het saam in ‘n permanente, stabiele, en intieme verhouding geleef, en hulle was verloof om te trou. Verder was hul vennootskap gelyk aan, of het die meeste eienskappe van ’n huwelik getoon: die oorledene het haar finansieel en emosioneel ondersteun, en hy het haar aan sy vriende as sy vrou voorgestel. Verder het hulle wedersydse ondersteuningspligte aanvaar en was hulle van plan om saam ‘n gesin te begin.

Die eksekuteur van die oorledene se boedel het beide eise afgekeur op grond dat die Wet op Intestaatopvolging en die Wet op die Onderhoud van Oorlewende Eggenote slegs aan getroude egpare voordele verleen, en nie aan vennote in permanente lewensvennootskappe nie.

Die meerderheidsuitspraak van die Grondwetshof, opgestel deur Regter Madlanga, het beklemtoon dat permanente lewensvennootskappe ‘n geldige gesinstruktuur is en dat dit respek verdien en, gegewe onlangse ontwikkelinge in die gemenereg, regsaanspreeklikheid verdien. Die uitspraak het bepaal dat die definisie van “oorlewende” in artikel 1 van die Wet op die Onderhoud van Oorlewende Eggenote ongrondwetlik en ongeldig is in die gevalle waarin dit die woorde “en sluit die oorblywende vennoot van ‘n permanente lewensvennootskap wat beëindig is deur die dood van een vennoot, waar die vennote wedersydse pligte van ondersteuning aangegaan het en in omstandighede waar die oorblywende vennoot nie ‘n billike aandeel in die oorledene se boedel ontvang het nie” weglaat. Die uitspraak het beveel dat hierdie woorde in die definisie ingelees moet word.

“Gade” en “huwelik” word ook verklaar om ‘n persoon in ‘n permanente lewensvennootskap in te sluit. Die ongeldigverklaring is vir 18 maande opgeskort om die parlement die geleentheid te bied om die grondwetlike fout reg te stel.

Daarbenewens het die meerderheidsuitspraak die ongeldigverklaring van artikel 1(1) van die Wet op Intestaatopvolging wat deur die Hooggeregshof gemaak is, bevestig. Netso is hierdie ongeldigverklaring vir 18 maande opgeskort om die parlement die geleentheid te bied om die grondwetlike fout reg te stel.

Die Bwanya-uitspraak is ‘n oorwinning vir permanente lewensvennote, wat nou kwalifiseer as intestaaterfgename.

As u onsekerheid wil vermy en onbedoelde gevolge wil voorkom, bly die beste oplossing om ‘n professioneel opgestelde testament op te stel en dit indien nodig op te dateer. ‘n Geldige testament is altyd uiters belangrik. ‘n Geldige testament sou die noodsaaklikheid vir ‘n hofaansoek in die bogenoemde geval voorkom het.

Eksekuteurs moet voortaan enige eise van lewensvennote ingevolge een van die genoemde wette in ag neem, aangesien die versuim om dit te doen tot litigasie kan lei.

Reference List:
• Intestate Succession Act, 81 of 1987
• Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act, 27 of 1990
• Bwanya v Master of the High Court, Cape Town and Others [2021] ZACC 51
https://collections.concourt.org.za

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies.

Jan Fourie

Director |  Attorney, Notary & Conveyancer | BA. LLB

Jan graduated in 1974 with a five-year BA LLB degree from the University of Stellenbosch, whereafter he was admitted as an advocate and prosecuted as such in the Cape Town and Wynberg Courts. In 1974, he joined Swemmer & Levin as the Candidate Attorney of Mr Levin (founding member) and was admitted as an attorney on 7 April 1976, as a conveyancer on 11 January 1978, and as a Notary on 19 December 1984. Since 1974, he has served in various committees, including the West Coast Chamber of Commerce, the Vredenburg School Committee, and the Malgas Lions Club. 

Furthermore, Jan was the author of the first bilingual law book, The New Debt Collecting Procedures (Die Nuwe Skuldinvorderingsprosedures), which was used by all the Magistrate Courts throughout South Africa. With the founding of the Small Claims Court in Vredenburg, Jan served as one of the first Commissioners. He is currently based at Swemmer & Levin’s Vredenburg office and has been with our firm for more than 47 years.

Pieter Smit

Director | Attorney & Conveyancer | BA. LLB

Pieter obtained his BA Law degree from Stellenbosch University in 1995 and his LLB degree from the North-West University in Potchefstroom in 1998. He served his articles at Marais Muller Attorneys from 1998 to 1999 and was admitted as an attorney in 2000 and as a conveyancer in 2002. Pieter is the founder of PP Smit Attorneys, which opened its doors in 2004. He also became a director of Swemmer & Levin in 2006. Pieter loves the outdoors and participating in all forms of sport, including tennis, golf, fishing, spearfishing, scuba diving, and hiking. 

Johann Maree

Director | Attorney | BA. LLB

Johann matriculated at Oudtshoorn High School and attended Stellenbosch University, where he obtained his BA Law and LLB degrees. Following his studies, he worked for three years as State Prosecutor at the Magistrate’s Court in Cape Town. Johann completed his legal training with the State Attorney in Pretoria and then moved to his hometown, Oudtshoorn, where he worked as a lawyer for a year. In 1983, he finally moved to Vredenburg and joined Swemmer & Levin, where he is still practising as a director. When he is not in the office, Johann enjoys cycling and in his earlier days, he used to be a long-distance junkie.

Richard Phillips

Director | Attorney | Bcom & BProc

After matriculating at Paarl Boys’ High School, Richard completed his BCom and BProc degrees at the University of Port Elizabeth. He served his articles with Van Wyk Fouchee in Paarl and quickly developed an affinity for litigation. Richard has always had a deep love for the ocean and when he was presented with an opportunity to join Swemmer & Levin on the West Coast, he agreed without hesitation and has been with our firm since 1997. Richard specialises in general litigation and divorces. When he is not in the office or with his family, he tries to spend as much time as possible in or on the water.

Jandré Smith

Director | Attorney | LLB

Jandré grew up and matriculated in the small Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn. He furthered his studies at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, obtaining his LLB degree during 2015. He completed his articles at Swemmer & Levin in 2017 and was subsequently appointed as a professional assistant. In 2020, Jandré was promoted to the position of director at the firm, where he practises in the Litigation department at our Langebaan office. When not practising law, Jandré is an avid sports fan. He has a passion for nature and enjoys camping, trail running, and mountain biking with his family.

Andre van der Walt

Director | Attorney | LLB

Andre graduated in 2015 with an LLB degree from the University of Pretoria. He later went on to obtain his NQF 7 Certificate in the Administration of Deceased Estates from the University of South Africa, which allowed him to further his career in deceased estates and the drafting of wills and trusts. Andre served his articles at Barnard & Patel Attorneys under the supervision of Mr YAS Patel. After being admitted as an attorney in 2016, he continued working at Barnard & Patel Attorneys as a professional assistant in the deceased estates department.

Andre joined Van Rensburg Attorneys in 2019 and was head of the deceased estates department until 2021. He then received the opportunity to move to the West Coast, where he joined Swemmer & Levin Attorneys. Andre loves travelling and enjoys the beauty that our country has to offer with his friends, family, and loved ones.

Harmann Potgieter

Attorney | LLB

Harmann graduated in 2018 with an LLB degree from the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus. He went on to study and grow in various fields, including doing a course on the Consumer Protection Act and a course at the University of South Africa where he obtained his NQF 7 Certificate in the Administration of Deceased Estates.

Harmann completed his articles of clerkship at Swemmer & Levin under the supervision of Mr Richard Phillips. After being admitted as an attorney in 2020, Harmann continued with Swemmer & Levin as a professional assistant in the deceased estates department as well as the litigation department. He loves to study, possesses a deep curiosity about the world, and is dedicated to giving back to the community.

Carla Cloete

Attorney, Conveyancer & Notary | LLB

Carla obtained her LLB at the North West University, Potchefstroom Campus in 2015. She completed her articles in 2017 with Brits Dreyer Inc in Bellville. She is an admitted Attorney, Notary and Conveyancer. After her articles she relocated to Kimberley where she worked as a professional assistant in the Conveyancing department of Van de Wall Inc. Coming back to her Western Cape roots, she now joins the Swemmer & Levin team as a professional assistant.