Law Jargon Explained

Advocate
A lawyer who takes instructions from attorneys and who generally appears in court.

Ante-Nuptial Contract
An agreement entered into BEFORE marriage which sets out how the parties to the marriage will deal with one another's estates during the course of the marriage and more importantly upon the ending of that marriage by death or divorce.

An ante-nuptial contract may be a straight ante-nuptial contract or one which envisages a marriage to which the accrual regime may apply.

To find out about the different types of ante-nuptial contract click here.

Attorney
A lawyer who provides general legal services to the man in the street and who may instruct an advocate to appear in court.

Beneficiary
Someone who inherits something in terms of a will or benefits from a trust.

Conveyancer
A qualified attorney who attends to the registration of transfers of property in the Deeds Office as well as to the registration of mortgage bonds.

Contract of Sale
This is an agreement between a buyer and a seller. It sets out the main terms of what has been agreed such as the address, the price, the names of the parties. It also deals with what happens if something goes wrong. Some contracts have to be written in order to be binding (a contract for the sale of land for example must be in writing and signed by both the buyer and the seller).

Deed of Transfer see title deed(s)

Deeds Registry
A department of the Central Government which has offices in Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, King William's Town and Vryburg where documents relating to the registration of immovable property are lodged. The Deeds Registries guarantee that the land which they say is registered in your name is in fact registered in your name. Other documents such as ante-nuptial contracts are also registered there.

Domicile
This will usually be the place or country where you live. If, for example, you live in South Africa then you would say that you are domiciled there. It gets more complicated where you may work overseas but still consider that you live in another country. In such cases, generally, you are domiciled in the country that you consider to be your home.

Domicilium Citandi Et Executandi
Your address at which you ordinarily live and at which you will accept service of a summons or other legal document.

Estate
This means whatever you own be it a house, a car, furniture, clothing, investments and so on. If you talk about splitting your estate amongst your children you mean that everything that you own will be divided amongst them.

Estate Duty
You may be liable to pay tax (Estate Duty) on your death. If your estate, after deduction of certain expenses and rebates, is worth more than R3,500,000 (THREE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND RAND), then your estate will be liable to Estate Duty. This is charged at a rate of 20 {386da21712306c7ea1ec53b34b97fadb8c0ec5caeb4fa51813505ee2700f52b4}, and is paid on the amount by which your net estate value exceeds R3,500,000. (For example, if your net estate is worth R3,650,000, your estate will be liable for Estate Duty calculated at 20{386da21712306c7ea1ec53b34b97fadb8c0ec5caeb4fa51813505ee2700f52b4} on the amount by which your estate exceeds R3 500 000 ie. R150 000 x 20{386da21712306c7ea1ec53b34b97fadb8c0ec5caeb4fa51813505ee2700f52b4} = R30 000). In addition to estate Duty, Capital Gains may also be payable on certain of your assets which might have invreased in value since October 2001. If you are married, or live in a permanent relationship with someone, each of you can take advantage of the R3 500 000 primary rebate and create a situation where no estate duty is payable up to a joint R7 000 000, by carefully structuring your wills. If you feel that there is a danger of your estate being Estate Duitable on your death, there are measures that can be taken during your lifetime to minimise the amount of Estate Duty that will become payable on your death, which would ensure additional savings for your beneficiaries.

Grantor
The person giving rights away in a power of attorney. For example if you want to appoint someone to act for you while you are out of the country or are incapacitated then you would grant to them a General Power of Attorney and in granting that you would be the grantor

Grantee
The person to whom rights are granted in a power of attorney. If you appoint someone to act for you while you are out of the country or are incapacitated then you would grant to them a General Power of Attorney and in granting that to them they would be the grantee

General Power of Attorney
A document which gives someone else the right to act in your name and place. It would enable them to open bank accounts, buy and sell shares, buy and sell immovable property and generally carry out your business on your behalf.

Guardian
This is a person who is obliged to exercise certain legal obligations on behalf of another. A parent, for example, is the guardian of a MINOR CHILD. A guardian can be nominated in a will to be the person who you would like to look after your infant children after your death, should you die before they reach 21. A guardian can be appointed by the Court should a person become incapable of managing their own affairs.

Immovable Property
This refers to land (and the buildings thereon) as opposed to movable property

Insolvent
A person who has been declared bankrupt by the Court. This means that their liabilities (what the owe) exceeds their assets (what they own) and that they are not able to pay their debts.

Legatee
Someone who receives a Legacy

Legacy
A gift made in a will

Married In Community of Property
In South Africa if you get married without first of all entering into an ante-nuptial contract then you will automatically be married in community of property. This means that whatever you own and whatever your husband or wife (spouse) owns will be joined together to form one estate. To dispose of major assets in that joint estate requires both spouses to agree and generally to sign any documentation together such as a sale agreement for a piece of land.

To read more about a marriage in community of property as well as a marriage out of community of property, click here.

Married Out of Community of Property
In South Africa you may choose to enter into a contract before you are married which sets out how the parties to the marriage will deal with one another's estates during the course of the marriage and more importantly upon the ending of that marriage by death or divorce. This contract is know as an ante-nuptial contract and must be signed before a notary public before you are married and must then be registered in a deeds registry within six months of signing it before a Notary Public. Generally if you enter into an ante-nuptial contract you will be described as being married out of community of property. This means that you will be able to deal with your own property on your own without the assistance of your husband or wife (spouse). If you need to sign documents for the transfer of some land, for example, you will be able to do so without having to get your spouse's assistance.

To read more about a marriage out of community of property as well as a marriage in community of property, click here.

Movable Property
This refers to any objects other than land which may be owned by you and would include shares, paintings, furniture, clothing and so on.

Mortgage
A loan made to help you buy a house. The loan is 'attached' onto your title deeds which means that you cannot sell the property without paying off the mortgage at the same time.

Notary Public
An attorney who has written a special examination which entitles him to draw and attest certain contracts and other documents and to authenticate public acts. A notary will draw up and register Ante-Nuptial contracts, servitudes and other special agreements.

Residue
Refers to "the remainder of your estate" and covers everything else that you owned, and that you haven't already given away as special bequests in your will.

Residuary Beneficiary
One of the people who will share in the residue

Summons
A document which starts a court action which generally requires you to appear at court to answer a claim against you.

Testator
This means a man making a will

Testatrix
This means a woman making a will

Title Deeds
These documents firstly act as evidence that the person selling the property actually owns it, and secondly set out any rights or obligations that affect the property. If you are selling then valuable time can be saved if your title deeds can be obtained by us at an early stage. If you have a mortgage then your bank will be holding on to your title deeds. We will need to know your mortgage account number and the name and address of the lender. Some lenders charge a fee to send out your deeds but this will normally be added to your mortgage account.

Transfer
The act of acquiring ownership of a property. Ownership of a property is transferred to you and your ownership is then registered in the deeds registry

Transfer Duty
A tax payable to the Receiver of Revenue on the registration of transfer of immovable property. In the case of private individuals this is exempt up to and including R150 000,00, 5{386da21712306c7ea1ec53b34b97fadb8c0ec5caeb4fa51813505ee2700f52b4} of the value of the property from R150 000,00 up to R320 000,00 and 8{386da21712306c7ea1ec53b34b97fadb8c0ec5caeb4fa51813505ee2700f52b4} on the value of the property thereafter. In the case of Trusts, Companies and Close Corporations a flat rate of 10{386da21712306c7ea1ec53b34b97fadb8c0ec5caeb4fa51813505ee2700f52b4} of the value of the property is charged. See our Transfer costs calculator.

Trust
If a house, money, shares etc. are held 'in Trust' for someone (often a minor) it means that the asset(s) are being looked after (administered) for them by trustees. There are usually two kinds of beneficiaries, namely, Income Beneficiaries (for whom the income of the Trust property is intended) and Capital Beneficiaries (upon whom the Trust Capital will ultimately devolve upon the happening of a certain event).

Trustee
The person or persons who look after (administer) the house, money, shares, etc. that are held in trust. The trustee is not allowed to do anything with the house, money, shares, and they owe a duty of care to the beneficiaries of the trust.