n Journal of Law, Society and Development - Modern freedom of testation in South Africa : its application by the courts

Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2313-8289



Freedom of testation is considered to be one of the founding principles of the South African law of testate succession. Testators are given freedom to direct how their estate should devolve and free rein to dispose of their assets as they deem fit. As a result, effect must be given to the expressed wishes of the testator. Prior to 1994, such freedom could be limited only by common law or statutory law; more recently, such freedom has been tested against the Constitution of South Africa. This means that a provision in a will cannot be enforced by the courts if it is contra bonos mores, impossible or too vague, in conflict with the law, or is deemed to be unconstitutional. Having regard to the unfair discrimination provisions of section 9(3) of the Final Constitution, can a court enforce a will or a trust deed which discriminates against potential beneficiaries on account of their race, gender, religion or disability? Will such clause pass the test of constitutionality, be justified or considered to achieve a legitimate objective? Can potential beneficiaries or anyone who has locus standi challenge the freedom of testation by relying on the freedoms and rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights? It is against this background that the paper attempts to answer these questions and explore the extent to which the Constitution has an impact on freedom of testation. The central thesis of the article is to determine whether clauses in wills or trust instruments which differentiate between different classes of beneficiary can be deemed to be valid. This is done by looking at several more recent cases that have appeared before our courts.

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