Safeguarding assets and investments

Immovable properties may include the matrimonial or family home, commercial or industrial properties. Equities can be listed or unlisted on the stock exchange.

Lack of safeguards

These may result in the following situations:

Loss of assets due to debt.

Disputes over ownership.

Disputes over the distribution of assets in a deceased estate. At times there could be more than one spouse or set of children.

Unauthorised disposal of or disputes over assets held indirectly through special purpose vehicles or other people such as relatives or friends.

Loss of value through separation or divorce.


To mitigate against the above and other pitfalls, there are measures one might implement. Some of the safeguards, simple as they appear, are never implemented.

Avoid procrastinating. Decide, implement and safe-keep documents.

Professional advice: Seek financial and legal assistance before undertaking a material transaction.

Title deeds: Target immovable properties with title deeds. Pay your conveyancer and ensure timely finalisation of property transfer. Carefully choose the person to register as owner. For example, a matrimonial home can be registered in the name of one or both spouses, family trust, company or children.

Cession: Where a property is held under cession ensure all the necessary cession documents are in place. Many properties such as in high density suburbs are on cession or rent to buy. Where possible engage lawyers to obtain title deeds.

Shareholding: Carry a due diligence on your prospective business partners. In joint shareholding with for example relatives, friends or business associates ensure, on consummation, that there are shareholding agreements, share certificates, etc.

Assets held indirectly: This is common with properties and shares held through for example children or friends. Have safeguards to retain ownership or control.

Valid agreements: Generally for business arrangements including dealership, agency or distributorship ensure the existence of valid signed agreements.

Read documents: Have a culture of reading contracts or agreements before signing.

Valid lease agreements: For leased premises ensure there is a valid lease agreement, preferably a long one. Avoid making major improvements, such as permanent structures, thereon without agreeing with the lessor.

Joint ventures: Carefully structure a joint venture arrangement to ensure that you do not lose control of assets or income streams or other rights.

Wills: To minimise disputes over assets in a deceased estate, people are advised to write wills. Sadly, many people including prominent ones pass on without leaving behind valid wills and estates are then resolved in terms of the general laws of succession. It becomes complex where different spouses and children are involved. The Marriages Bill may address some of the issues when it becomes law.

Financial emergencies: Such situations may include medical, litigation, loss of employment, struggling business, bad business transaction, accident, etc. Act swiftly to minimise financial damage. Do not ignore legal processes. To cater for emergencies maintain a balanced portfolio of liquid, semi- liquid and non- liquid assets. Also avoid exposing all your assets to debt but maybe a certain portion or class. Safeguard your family home.

Life commitments. Provide for major life commitments such as school and university fees.

Lifestyle: Lifestyle, especially entertainment, plays a significant role in preserving assets. Lifestyle and entertainment pitched too high relative to income or not adjusted during difficult times can be destructive through debt and asset disposals.

Incapacitation of key person: Incapacitation of a bread winner, major shareholder or driving force behind a family business can be devastating. Have clear succession or business continuity plans.

Separation and divorce: Engage, negotiate settlement to preserve assets.

Mergers and acquisitions: If not properly done or done without full due diligence on the other party such deals can be disastrous. This can destroy assets and one’s source of income.


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