Once the ring is on your finger and the unforgettable proposal is behind you, the whirlwind of wedding planning begins.
Flowers, venue, photographer, guestlist, and of course, the all-important DRESS all make their way onto your checklist. But amidst the excitement, there’s one vital element that should not be overlooked.
Don’t forget about the legal implications of marriage, and whether a prenuptial contract is right for you.
Under South African law, marriages without a contract automatically fall under the “community of property” regime. This applies to customary marriages as well, whether or not they are registered with the Department of Home Affairs. In practical terms, this means that you and your spouse share a communal estate. Everything in either of your names becomes legally owned by both of you, for better or worse.
This arrangement extends to assets like property, pension funds, or money in the bank, where half of the value belongs to your spouse. While many South Africans embrace this communal property system, it can present challenges. For instance, both spouses can accumulate debts in both names, property transactions require joint consent, and signing as a surety can involve both partners.
To address these financial and estate planning concerns, consider a prenuptial contract—a legal document signed before a notary before the marriage date, outlining property implications. In South Africa, there are two options for such contracts: with or without accrual.
Without accrual is a choice for those who want to maintain separate estates. This means that you and your spouse won’t have claims on each other’s assets acquired before or during the marriage. It suits couples who have substantial pre-marital assets or children from previous relationships to provide for.
With accrual, on the other hand, involves sharing what you accumulate during the marriage. The contract establishes the starting value of each partner’s estate before marriage, and anything acquired together is divided upon divorce or death. This option often appeals to young couples starting their lives together.
Some couples opt not to exclude anything from accrual, essentially starting from scratch and sharing everything they build during the marriage. This provides legal protection against creditors and ensures equitable sharing.
Both contract options typically exclude inheritances specified in a will.
It’s important to remember that a prenuptial contract isn’t a plan for divorce; it’s a tool for responsible estate planning and protection. It can ease financial worries and streamline your journey with your spouse, ensuring that you’re both on the same page from the beginning. So, as you plan your dream wedding, consider the legal aspects too, and decide if a prenuptial contract is right for your future together.