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Age, Domicile and Status

What effect does a person’s status have?

  • Status refers to a person’s capacity to:
    • bear rights and duties (“legal capacity”);
    • enter into contracts (“capacity to act”);
    • be held liable for crimes (“criminal responsibility”); and
    • sue or be sued (“capacity to litigate”).
  • A person’s capacity is limited by his/her domicile, age, or mental and physical ability.

What effect does a person’s domicile have?

  • The word domicile comes from the latin word domicilium, which means “home”.
  • A person’s domicile plays a role in law to determine:
    • what law governs a marriage and the dissolution of a deceased person’s estate;
    • the validity and consequences of adoption of a child; and
    • whether a court has the power to hear a matter and make a judgment.

What effect does a person’s age have?

  • A person has full, limited or no capacity, as explained in the table below:



0-7 years of age

  • No capacity.
  • A parent or guardian acts in his/her name for an infant.

7-18 years of age

  • Limited capacity.
  • A minor can enter into contracts with the consent or assistance of his/her parent or guardian.
  • A minor does not need assistance from his/her parent or guardian for HIV testing, getting rights without duties (like receiving a donation), or to access information.

0-10 years of age

  • No criminal responsibility.

10-14 years of age

  • There is a presumption that there is no criminal responsibility unless proven differently.

14 years of age and above

  • Full criminal responsibility.
  • A minor can be a witness to a Will.

10 years of age and above

  • A minor must consent to his/her adoption.

12 years of age and above

  • A minor can receive medical treatment without the consent of his/her parent or guardian provided that the minor understands the advantages, risks and implications of the treatment.

12–15 years of age for girls
14–18 years of age for boys

  • A minor may get married with the consent of his/her parent or guardian and the Minister of Home Affairs.
  • A minor who gets married becomes a major, and maintains this status after divorce.

16 years of age and above

  • A minor can make a Will without the assistance of his/her parent or legal guardian.
  • A minor can open a bank account.

18 years of age and above

  • A person has full capacity, unless s/he is mentally ill, physically disabled or is a prodigal and cannot manage his/her own affairs (a curator must be appointed); or is under the influence of alcohol and drugs (for example, the contract is void as it was entered into while s/he could not control his/her actions).


Glossary of terms:
CURATOR: a person appointed by a High Court to manage a person’s estate as s/he cannot manage his/her own affairs.
GUARDIAN: both husband and wife are guardians of a child born from the marriage; the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the guardian, unless the father acquires guardianship, for example, by living in a permanent life-partnership with the mother; or the court may appoint a guardian. Guardianship includes safeguarding the child’s property or property interests; representing the child in legal matters; and consenting to marriage, adoption, removal from South Africa, or an application for a passport.
PARENT: the biological father or mother of a child who has full or limited parental rights and responsibilities over his/her child.
PRODIGAL: a person who wastes money in an irresponsible and extravagant manner.
VOID: a term used to describe a contract as being invalid and unenforceable.

How can LegalWise assist you?

Should you require an explanation of your rights on this topic, please contact your nearest Branch.


The information contained on this website is aimed at providing members of the public with guidance on the law in South Africa. This information has not been provided to meet the individual requirements of a specific person and LegalWise insists that legal advice be obtained to address a person’s unique circumstances. It is important to remember that the law is constantly changing and although LegalWise strives to keep the information up to date and of a high quality, it cannot be guaranteed that the information will be updated and/or be without errors or omissions. As a result, LegalWise, its employees, independent contractors, associates or third parties will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable, for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions by LegalWise, which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.

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