oa Litnet Akademies : 'n Joernaal vir die Geesteswetenskappe, Natuurwetenskappe, Regte en Godsdienswetenskappe - Suid-Afrikaanse howe se hantering van verlore testamente : regte

Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1995-5928



Die gemeenregtelike posisie rakende die hantering van verlore testamente in die Suid-Afrikaanse reg is betreklik geyk. Tog het Suid-Afrikaanse howe nie altyd in die verlede bevredigend omgegaan met die gemeenregtelike reëls en vermoedens wat geld ten opsigte van 'n testament wat nie meer by 'n testateur se afsterwe voorhande is nie. Hierdie bydrae belig, teen die agtergrond van die Boedelwet 66 van 1965 se voorskrifte rakende die hantering van testamente deur die meester van die hooggeregshof, enkele uitsprake waarin Suid-Afrikaanse howe se toepassing van die gemenereg ten opsigte van verlore testamente vir kritiek vatbaar is. Sedert die toevoeging van die hooggeregshof se kondonasiebevoegdheid ten opsigte van vormgebrekkige testamente in 1992, is Suid-Afrikaanse howe ook gekonfronteer met die vraag of verlore testamente binne die kader van die Wet op Testamente 7 van 1953 se kondonasiebedeling hanteer mag word. Ook ten aansien van hierdie kwessie het Suid-Afrikaanse howe nie deurlopend op beginselmatige en noukeurige wyse met die tersaaklike regsreëls omgegaan nie. Hierdie bydrae ondersoek derhalwe enkele van dié gewysdes ten einde gebreke in ons howe se benadering tot verlore testamente binne die konteks van testamentêre kondonasie toe te lig.

This contribution assesses South African courts' treatment of lost wills in terms of both the common law and, since 1992, the condonation dispensation of the Wills Act 7 of 1953. The contribution's point of departure is that the common law rules on lost wills, although well settled and amply propounded in judgments from the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, have nevertheless posed application challenges to South African courts. These challenges are contextualised when evaluated against the backdrop of the prescripts of the Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965 on the treatment of wills by the master of the high court. This contribution therefore begins with a brief overview of early South African judgments in which it was established that a lost will, if originally validly executed and not subsequently revoked or set aside, remains operational after the testator's death, and its contents can be proven by secondary evidence - typically with reliance on a copy of the original will, a draft of the original will, or oral evidence on the lost will's contents. The contribution then outlines the prescripts in section 8 of the Administration of Estates Act regarding the receipt, registration and acceptance or rejection by the master of wills or documents purporting to be wills delivered to the master. The master's rejection of a document purporting to be a will by reason of its non-compliance with the execution formalities stipulated in section 2(1)(a) of the Wills Act has, since 1992, raised the possibility of invoking the high court's condonation power in terms of section 2(3) of the Wills Act to rescue the invalid will. Unsurprisingly, this possibility of testamentary rescue has raised the question whether, for example, a copy of a lost will can be condoned successfully.

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