Consider the following practical issues when entering into a cohabitation agreement:


  • South African banks do not allow joint accounts for cohabitants, and the partner in whose name the account is opened will be liable for any monies owed to the bank.
  • The Medical Schemes Act recognizes a 'partner' as a dependent.
  • Cohabitants are treated as spouses for tax purposes and may be named as beneficiaries in life insurance policies, but the nomination must be clear.
  • Decisions regarding care and contact of children are based on the best interests of the child and not on the marital status of the parents.
  • A domestic partner may receive pension fund benefits as a nominee, but will not be entitled to their partner's pension interest on termination of the relationship.
  • In the absence of a cohabitation agreement or universal partnership, private property acquired before the relationship belongs to the partner who originally acquired it, and cohabitation does not automatically give rise to property rights.
  • If a property is co-owned and registered in both cohabitants' names, they are joint legal owners and both liable for expenses and losses associated with the property.
  • If cohabitants enter into a joint lease, they are jointly liable for rent.
  • There is no right of intestate succession between domestic partners, even if they have lived together for a long time. The surviving partner will need to prove their contribution to the joint estate before entitlement is granted.