Are you a Common-law spouse?

In a Nutshell…

TIP: Draw up a Will and nominate your partner in your pension fund using the nomination of beneficiary form, should you want any assets to be left to your partner in case of your death.

IF YOU SPLIT UP: A domestic partner, in the event of ending their common-law relationship, will not be entitled to their partner’s pension interest.

In South Africa no matter how long a couple may live together, the law does not recognise common-law marriages as being valid. Their cohabitation (living together) does not create any automatic legal rights and duties between them. The rights of a common-law spouse are not equal to a spouse registered in a legitimate marriage. In terms of the law of intestate succession, if there is no will and one partner in a common-law marriage dies, the common-law spouse will have no rights on the property or assets left behind. Therefore it is important to get a will drafted to make provision for your partner.

Although common-law marriages do not have the same rights as partners in a marriage or civil union, there is some legislation that does consider living together and marriage on equal levels. Please do your homework.

Regarding pension funds, cohabitation is recognized and a common-law spouse may receive pension fund benefits if nominated by the member as a partner. A common-law spouse who qualifies under the definition of a dependant within the rules of that fund, may also receive pension benefits.

The technical definition: – A common-law spouse is a partner in a recognized marriage without being formally recorded with a state or a religious registry, but rather by habit and repute.