The dictionary defines a will as a legal document declaring a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die. In the past, even given their diverse cultural traditions, African societies have always been in cahoots with the law as far as inheritance is concerned, i.e. men inherited.
However, in today’s day and age, you don’t expect to find wrangles between family members following the demise of a key member of the family, be it a parent, brother or a sister, as long as there is a will stipulating how he/she wishes his wealth to be inherited.
Sadly however, materialism has eroded family values and now a brother will go to the extremes of killing his own flesh and blood just for a piece of land. Most communities in Kenya, like the Akamba, Kikuyu, Luhya’s, just to mention a few, believe that a woman should not inherit land from the parents, simply because she will get married someday and move out of the family and with her will go the land. This has seen women miss out on their parent’s inheritance to their brothers and in some cases, where there are no brothers in the family, uncles take over.
KENYA’S NEW CONSTITUTION AND WOMEN’S INHERITANCE
Thanks to the new constitution, women now have a right to inheritance. The new constitution eliminates gender discrimination in relation to land and property and gives everyone, including women, the right to inheritance and unbiased access to land – Article 60 (1) (f).
Modernisation has seen a few people change their mentality and embracing the idea of documenting their wishes on how their inheritance is to be dispersed in wills. Unfortunately however, we still see many cases of family wrangles even where there is a presence of a will. Many of these cases are common with personalities in Kenya, who include prominent businessmen and politicians.
THE LATE GERISHON KIRIMA’S ESTATE
Recent incidences have seen animosity between daughter’s of the late business tycoon and former Starehe MP Gerishon Kirima and their step mother Teresiah Wirimu. The daughters accuse Teresiah of killing their father for his money and they have engaged each other in unending dramas all in an effort to get control of the vast estate. The most disgusting thing about this particular case is that the wrangles evolved even before the old man died.
SAMUEL WANJIRU ‘S WOMEN FIGHT IT OUT
Then there was the tussle that emerged in the family of the late Olympics marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru, following the controversial circumstances surrounding his death.
Wanjiru’s mother accused her daughter-in-law Trizah Wanjiru of orchestrating her son’s death, so that she could inherit his estate.
A pregnant woman then emerged on the scene claiming that Wanjiru was responsible for her pregnancy and that he had also paid dowry for her. She also claimed a portion of the wealth he left behind. The case is still in court but a DNA test carried out revealed that Wanjiru was indeed the father of the baby boy who was born a few months back. The mother of the child then went ahead to name the boy after the father in his memory.
VICE PRESIDENT KIJANA WAMALWA AND THE MISSING MILLIONS
The widow of the late former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa is also facing legal issues as her step children battle her in court for their inheritance. They want their stepmother, Yvonne Wamalwa, to account for $96,153 (Sh7.9million) she allegedly received on their behalf while they were minors. They accuse her of misappropriating their inheritance as well as not involving them in the running of their father’s estate.
OJODE FAMILY AT WAR
Following the helicopter crash that left Hon George Saitoti and his assistant minister Joshua Orwa Ojode dead, the latter’s family is at war. Ojode’s brothers are out to ensure that the widow and son are not the sole custodians of their brother’s estate. Samuel Awuodi Ojode, the elder brother to the late MP has petitioned parliament to freeze any compensation to Ojodes widow Mary, claiming she has refused to cooperate on matters to do with the deceased’s estate.
THE WILL, WILL PREVAIL
The importance of a will has been emphasis to ensure that such conflicts do not occur. Death is still considered a taboo in the African culture and many people would rather not discuss it. Some communities actually believe that their traditions should always carry the day but legally a will, will always prevail. If an individual dies without a will his estate will be distributed as decreed by law but in the existence of a valid will, the provisions of the will always triumph.
A will gives you the opportunity to leave your estate to whomever you wish, appoint the Executors and Trustees of your choice, and saves inheritance tax using appropriate draftings.
Sadly, corruption has seen wills being doctored to suit specific parties’ interests but since no one knows his day and time of departure on earth, it’s important to plan for it before it happens and put your wishes on paper.
You may not like the idea but it’s best to plan for what happens after you’ve died.