Planning your marriage is an exciting time, but it’s important to remember the legal nitty-gritty details as well as the more enjoyable aspects of beginning your life together as a partnership. While it may be tempting to shy away from any aspect of planning your marriage that suggests it may end someday, it’s important you take this critical step together as a couple to ensure your relationship has the strongest foundation possible. Today, Annemarie Swanepoel Attorneys gives you all the facts you need to know to make the best decision together.
1. IF YOU DON’T DECIDE ON AN ANTENUPTIAL, THE LAW DECIDES FOR YOU
South African law mandates that an antenuptial contract should be signed before you tie the knot. If you don’t, you will be automatically declared ‘married in community of property’. It’s rare for this to be the right decision for your joint estates, and can have considerable knock-on effects you may not consider in the first flush of love, whether you divorce or spend a long and loving marriage together.
2. THIS MEANS THE LAW ALSO DECIDES HOW YOUR FUTURE WILL BE SHAPED
Divorce isn’t the only way a marriage can end. antenuptial contracts are there to protect you every step of the way, not just if things go wrong. While an ‘in community of property‘ marriage may provide well for a widowed spouse if you have a very simple life with no children, the lack of a clear plan for your estate under law can have some very bad knock-on effects among the more realistically complicated modern families we live in, especially if you don’t have good estate planning in place through a will.
3. WITHOUT AN ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACT, YOUR MARRIAGE ACTUALLY LACKS TRANSPARENCY
People often duck away from the idea of an antenuptial contract, believing it to be a cynical stab in the eye of love. However, an antenuptial contract is actually one of the most transparent ways to enter a marriage, clearly laying out you and your spouse’s existing assets and debts, and giving a clear path for the growth of your assets with and without each other. It’s far easier to hide secrets in the financial cupboard if you’ve never sat down to talk to each other about it, and the shame people can feel around debt may well lead them to hide critical information from their spouse without this discussion taking place.
4. ‘TIL DEBT DO US PART
antenuptial contracts aren’t just about your assets- they are part of taking responsibility for your own debts too. If your spouse has significant debt- whether or not they have revealed it to you- half of that debt automatically becomes yours once you sign the marriage register unless you have an antenuptial contract in place. Are you ready to stake your financial future on bad decisions your spouse made decades ago?
5. AN ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACT CAN HELP YOU PROTECT YOUR SPOUSE AND CHILDREN
Did you know that your antenuptial contract could actually help protect your family? antenuptial contracts establish you and your spouse as two separate legal entities- a protection that doesn’t exist for the couple married ‘in community of property’. This means that, if you or your spouse are sued without an antenuptial contract in place, both of you are seen as liable- and all your assets can be seized under law. With a good contract in place, however, you can help support your spouse through a difficult legal situation and protect some of your assets for your children’s sakes too.
While it’s up to every couple what style of marriage they wish to enter, the simple use of an antenuptial contract has many decided advantages over a traditional ‘in community of property’ marriage, and no downsides either. While talking about your finances may seem difficult, it’s better to get in the habit of having hard discussions as a couple to ensure your marriage has strong foundations from the get-go. Remember, Annemarie Swanepoel Attorneys are always here to lend you a helping hand in the planning process.