What are the Legal Rights & Protection for Cohabiting Couples in South Africa?
Because parties who are cohabiting are not afforded the same rights as those of married couples, in the event of the death of the one partner, the other partner will be precluded from inheriting in the estate of the deceased partner in terms of the Instestate Suuccession Act if the deceased partner died with a executing a will. However, nothing prevents either partner from naming the other partner as a beneficiary to inherit under their respective last will and testament. Furthermore, the surviving partner will not have a spousal maintenance claim in terms of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act against the estate of the deceased partner as this is a claim that can only be lodged by a legally married spouse.
In South Africa, banks do not usually allow joint bank accounts to cohabitants, however, they do allow co-signing rights and therefore any debt incurred by the owner of the bank account will be executed upon on the said bank account. The other partner will be left with the strainous exercise of having to prove that they have their monies in that bank account or will have to claim their money against the indebted partner. Furthermore, should the partner in whose name the bank account is held have an overdraft facility, the money in the bank account will be deducted regardless of which partner holds what share and in what ratio.