Making better choices
is not always this easy


Newsletter Archive

A Must-Have for Couples who Choose not to Tie the Knot

Posted On: Tuesday, July 4, 2023

A Must-Have for Couples who Choose not to Tie the Knot

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” (William Shakespeare) 

The times they are a-changin’

Living together and having children without getting married is becoming increasingly accepted worldwide. When Boris Johnson and his partner lived together as the first unmarried couple in No 10 Downing Street, there was no peep from the harsh British media. (The tabloids had their say on plenty of his other choices!) And in South Africa, cohabitation increases by almost 100% each year.

When couples decide to tie the knot, they often prepare an antenuptial contract. This can be uncomfortable as it makes them feel like they’re planning for divorce. This discomfort also applies to couples who decide to live together and are encouraged by their financial planner to prepare a cohabitation agreement. But despite the discomfort, it’s well worth it. Here’s why…

Cohabitation agreements 101

A cohabitation agreement defines shared money values. Signing a cohabitation agreement doesn’t mean you’re married in any way. The agreement includes mutual promises and is designed to provide peace of mind and a sense of security in the relationship.

The agreement usually includes disclosing each partner’s financial status (including debt) and the division of living expenses. It can go as far as defining domestic and financial duties expected by each partner.

The bottom line: Couples with the same beliefs and value systems, who plan together financially, stay together.

What about property?

A cohabitation agreement also considers the ownership of property, including:

  • The home in which the couple lives (One option is for one partner to purchase the property while the other maintains it, but there are loads of other ways of doing it. The key is to talk about it!)
  • Property purchased during the relationship.
  • Property owned before the relationship.

Additional considerations

The agreement also considers the ownership of other assets, including:

  • Gifts
  • Individual earnings
  • Earnings from properties

It’s also advisable to consider the cost of maintaining a life partner should the relationship not work out and to include your decision in the agreement. If this decision isn’t included, cohabitants are not obligated to maintain each other and have no enforceable right to claim maintenance.

Antenuptial contracts (prepared before marriage) can be in or out of community of property, the latter with or without accrual. These days, most couples opt to get married out of community of property with accrual. Still, the other systems have their place, especially when there’s a large differential in family wealth.

Similarly, a fair cohabitation contract depends on many variables. If it’s based on fairness, respect, and love, it will help the relationship last.

Interestingly, if persons decide to marry and don’t prepare an antenuptial contract, in community of property is the default position. This concept doesn’t apply to couples living together without formally marrying, reiterating the need for a co-habituation agreement.

Love and the law

Unfortunately, cohabitation agreements are not yet legally binding in South Africa. Nevertheless, they can assist the court with decisions regarding the division of assets and maintenance costs should the relationship end.

The good news is that the law is on the cohabitants’ side regarding:

  • Domestic violence.
  • Life insurance (a life partner may be a beneficiary, but the nomination must be precise because a clause in an insurance policy that confers benefits on members of the insured's “family” may cause problems.)
  • Maintenance of children (both parents have rights and responsibilities, regardless of living arrangements.)

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow you to transfer your pension assets to your life partner. Also, cohabitants cannot reclaim monies spent on maintaining their partner during the relationship – unless they can make out a case for unjust enrichment. Similarly, donations made between partners in a cohabitation relationship cannot be claimed back by the donor.

Till death us do part

Following a recent Constitutional Court ruling, partners in long-term relationships can inherit intestate (without a Will). The change means that a life partner is also entitled to a maintenance claim against the deceased’s estate.

South African law is (gladly) becoming less discriminatory. But a valid Will is still the safest way to ensure that your last wishes are implemented and that your life partner will inherit as you wish. (This goes for married couples, too.) Your cohabitation agreement and Will should be reviewed annually as circumstances always change.

Please get in touch with us if you’d like help preparing a cohabitation agreement. Your continued happiness and prosperity is our number one priority.

Please Register Below Or Login To Continue Reading.

First Name
Last Name


December 4 - Stock Markets Break Three-Month Losing Streak
December 3 - The Differences Between Life and Living Annuities
December 2 - Should you be an Optimist or a Pessimist With Your Money?
December 1 - How to Give Meaningful Gifts This Festive Season
November 4 - Market Update: The Effects of War, Higher Interest Rates and China on Equities
November 3 - Why do People Invest in Property?
November 2 - Retirement Planning: The ins and Outs of Nominating Beneficiaries
November 1 - Retiring Well is About More Than Money
October 4 - Why Your Marital Contract Really Matters
October 3 - How to Avoid Being Scammed by Email Fraudsters
October 2 - The Stock Market Indices to Watch When Monitoring Equity Performance
October 1 - Why do Some People Have a Problem Spending Money?
September 4 - The Difference Between Being Rich and Being Wealthy
September 3 - The Ins and Outs of Buying Offshore Property
September 2 - A Good Budget Doesn’t Limit Spending, it Prioritises it
September 1 - Should you pay off your home loan?
August 4 - How to Take Advantage of the Donations Tax Allowance
August 3 - Five Reasons why a Financial Windfall Must be Managed Carefully
August 2 - What’s Cooking with the Three-Pot System?
August 1 - Make Sure Your Family is Financially Prepared for When You Pass Away
July 4 - A Must-Have for Couples who Choose not to Tie the Knot
July 3 - Can Gratitude Make you Feel Better About Your Money?
July 2 - Four Ways to Make the Most of Retirement
July 1 - How to Invest When There’s So Much Bad News
June 4 - The Ins and Outs of Compulsory Annuities
June 3 - Who is Influencing Your Financial Decisions?
June 2 - R is for Rebalancing
June 1 - Don’t let Money Ruin Your Relationship
May 4 - Five Ways to Teach Kids About Money
May 3 - Much Ado About Risk
May 2 - Living Wills: A Must Have, Despite the Grey Areas
May 1 - What is True Wealth?
April 4 - How the 2023 Budget Will Impact Your Pocket
April 3 - Three Financial Imperatives for Women in Divorce
April 2 - Should You Ask ChatGPT for Financial Advice?
April 1 - Compound Interest: The Eighth Wonder of the World
March 4 - How a ‘Safe’ Fixed Deposit Might Still be Risky
March 3 - Thinking of moving to Australia? Bear these numbers in mind
March 2 - Avoid These 6 Barriers to Wealth Creation
March 1 - How Good do You Think You Are at Investing?
February 4 - Is Money Stress Taking a Toll on You?
February 3 - Why an Endowment is One of the Best Ways to Invest Offshore
February 2 - Why too Much of a Good Thing Can be a Bad Thing
February 1 - Invest With FIRE and Never Look Back
January 4 - Why Lottery Winners End up Broke: The Importance of Your Financial Context
January 3 - Discover the Freedom of a Tidy Portfolio
January 2 - Why You Absolutely Should be Investing in Education
January 1 - Four Simple Steps to Start the Year on the Right Financial Foot


December 4 - What is This Volatility Risk People are Always Talking About?
December 3 - Why You Need to Watch Out for The Butterfly Effect
December 2 - 6 Ways to Achieve Financial Freedom
December 1 - Three Books for the Holidays
November 4 - The Question of Loyalty
November 3 - Why do we Even Have Bull and Bear Markets?
November 2 - Should I Buy a Holiday House?
November 1 - Put Stocks, Rather Than Socks, Under the Tree This Christmas
October 4 - Can You Take Out Life Insurance on Someone Else?
October 3 - Loss Aversion and Lifestyle Creep – How Behaviour Influences Saving
October 2 - Why Timing Might be Everything in Retirement – Especially in a Bear Market
October 1 - Get Rich - Stay Rich Eight Mistakes Wealthy People Never Make
September 4 - Capital Gains Tax: 10 Common Questions Answered
September 3 - The Risk That Many Investors Don’t Think About
September 2 - Much Ado About Regulation 28 and the Private Investor
September 1 - The “Two Bucket” Retirement Savings System: What is it and Why is it Important?
August 4 - Retirement Planning for Age-Gap Couples
August 3 - A Simple “50-15-5” Budget Hack for Women (and Men!)
August 2 - Does Your Family Need a Constitution?
August 1 - Women’s Month: Three Ways You Can Improve Your Money Health
July 4 - Five Things to Check When a Loved One Passes Away
July 3 - Rules of Financial Planning For a Special-Needs Child
July 2 - Why Your Financial Plan Should Cater For Possible Dementia
July 1 - Why Inflation is the Most Important Investment Benchmark
June 4 - How Relevant Is The 4% Rule of Thumb These Days?
June 3 - Why You Should Treat Your Finances Like Your Health
June 2 - Is Your Business Good Retirement Capital?
June 1 - With the Limits Raised, How Much Should You Invest Offshore?
May 5 - Quote of the Month: Challenging the Rejection of an Insurance Claim
May 4 - Financial Products: The Less You Understand, the More You Pay
May 3 - The Miracle of Investment Debit Orders
May 2 - Five Things to Think About as Interest Rates Rise
May 1 - Stay Calm When the Bear Prowls
April 5 - Quotes of the Month – The War in Ukraine
April 4 - Smart Ways to Give: During and After Your Lifetime
April 3 - Take These Three Steps to Break the Money Shame Spiral
April 2 - When Things Don’t Go According To (The Financial) Plan
April 1 - What Amazon and Ford Can Tell Us About Diversification
March 4 - Quotes of the month – What the NFT?
March 3 - How to Avoid Losing Your Life’s Savings to a “Tinder Swindler”
March 2 - The Different Ways to Invest: What Does It All Mean?
March 1 - Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Wait to Talk to Your Kids About Money
February 6 - Quote of the Month – Don’t Cash In Your Retirement Savings
February 5 - Should You Top Up Your Retirement Annuities Now?
February 4 - Don’t Let Delays in the Master’s Office Leave Your Family in Financial Distress
February 3 - Don’t Let Delays in the Master’s Office Leave Your Family in Financial Distress
February 2 - Three Reasons an Insurer Could Cancel Your Policy
February 1 - Investing: Men and Women See Things Differently
January 4 - Quote of the month – Stay invested!
January 3 - What SARS Says About Crypto Assets and Tax
January 2 - Three Ways to Leave a Legacy, And Not Just an Estate
January 1 - Red-Carding the Myth of The Rational Investor