Regspraak: Aanspraak op opbrengs van lewensversekering van versekerde lewe getroud in gemeenskap van goed
Authors: MFB Reinecke en JC Sonnekus
Affiliations: Universiteit van Johannesburg; Universiteit van Johannesburg
Source: Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg, Issue 2, 2023, p. 349 – 358
In the case under discussion the insured two weeks before his death took out a large life policy on his own life. At the time of his death he was married in community of property to his wife. The Gauteng local division was called upon to decide whether or not the proceeds of the life policy fell into the joint estate of the spouses. The decision of the court was that the proceeds did not fall into the joint estate because it was paid after the joint estate was dissolved by the death of the spouse. The court relied on a few prior decisions to the same effect.
After an analysis of the principles involved we suggest that the proceeds should in principle form part of the spouses’ former joint estate. The life insurance policy was concluded during the subsistence of the marriage in community of property. The policy conferred on the insured the right to the sum insured on
his death. This right vested on conclusion of the contract, although it was subject to a time clause and it became enforceable only upon the death of the life insured. It is not a fictitious but an existing right which is capable of being ceded. This right falls into the joint estate: it was created by the policy prior to the death of the spouse and consequently prior to the dissolution of the marriage in community of property. There was indeed no other estate into which this right could have fallen. This means that the spouses were equally entitled to and liable under the contract of insurance. It was, so to speak, a debt due to the former joint estate. Hence each spouse must in principle receive one half of the death benefit.
The issue involved has not yet been finally laid to rest, although the supreme court of appeal approvingly referred to the decisions on which the court in the Maqubela case relied. The widow of the late insured also claimed that since the deceased left no will, she was entitled to inherit from her late husband’s estate as an intestate heir. The question arose whether she was entitled to benefit from the death of her husband. This aspect is not dealt with in the present discussion but in a separate article (Sonnekus “Gierigheid is die wortel van alle kwaad” 2023 TSAR 175).