An estranged wife who was separated from her husband for eight years failed to convince the court that she was the rightful beneficiary to half of an over R1 million pension fund that was to be paid out after her husband died.
The two were married in community of property but were estranged since 2002. In 2008, the husband went on to cohabit with another woman until his death in 2010.
He had two children with his wife and later nominated them to be his beneficiaries. He explicitly excluded his wife from his pension fund which was standing at R1 119 004.32 million. He had three other children who were traced and were also found to be his deserving beneficiaries.
The trustees of the fund distributed the money between his girlfriǝnd and his five children. The girlfriǝnd stood to receive 28% of the money.
Disenchanted by this, the wife approached a court to set aside the trustees’ decision.
She wanted the 28% to be paid to her and also get 50% from the pension fund as she was married in community of property.
The presiding judge ruled in the wife’s favour and referred the case to the trustees with instructions to reassess the benefits distribution and give the wife the money which had been granted to the girlfriǝnd.
The girlfriǝnd, the gratuity fund and the pension fund adjudicator appealed the decision in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Judge Mandla Mbongwe found that the previous court erred in its judgment by ruling in favour of the wife.
This was because death benefits are not included in the joint estate and the surviving spouse was not automatically entitled to half of the benefits by virtue of a marriage in community of property.
Judge Mbongwe noted that even though they were married in community of property, the wife left her husband in 2002 and since then there was no evidence that she was financially dependent on her husband.
He said the wife’s application should have been rejected from the beginning as absence of financial dependency weighed heavy against her application.