What Does the Proposed Marriage Bill Mean for You | Herbst BlueStar | Sanlam Financial Planners Pretoria

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What does the proposed marriage bill mean for you?

South Africa is on the brink of significant changes to its marriage and estate laws. Understanding your rights in the marital relationship and how changes to South African estate planning laws and marriage laws may impact these is critical.

Proposed changes to the Intestate Succession Act and the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act will mean that anyone in a permanent life partnership has a claim on their partner’s estate – the same as any married spouse. However, the definition of spouse does not extend to unmarried partners in the event of a break-up. You must be married under one of South Africa’s marriage acts to ensure your rights are fully defined and protected.

The current proposal is to dissolve all the laws into one ‘master’ Marriage Act. This draft Bill is out for comment and while we are in favour of such a Bill, it still needs a lot of work, thought and sensitivity. A number of challenges and omissions are evident from the proposed Bill:


As the Bill stands, it won’t apply retrospectively to existing, unregistered customary marriages.


If already married, a man will now need to seek court approval as to the division of his existing estate among his current wives before marrying a new spouse. This process could be expensive and time-consuming.


Muslim marriages are traditionally out of community of property but the proposed law advocates for the default to be in community of property for all marriages.


In a contentious move, polyandry is completely excluded from the Bill.


Marriage according to the tenets of a religion is not covered.

We must ensure that consolidating the various laws into one Act does not remove any rights we have worked for, especially those for women. All stakeholders need to be consulted extensively.

It is advisable to consult a financial adviser or a wills consultant who can make sure that your wishes are legally documented to ensure fairness and prevent delays in winding up the estate. They will also ensure the signed will is stored securely.

Sanlam Life is a Licensed Life Insurer, Financial Services and Registered Credit Provider (NCRCP43)

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