Estates and Inheritance – The Hot African Issue (Part 2 of 2)

Inheritance is a practice of passing property, titles, debts, rights and other obligations upon death of an individual to a rightful heir. What usually forms the centre of most contestations, is what defines “rightful”.

Estates and Inheritance – The Hot African Issue (Part 2 of 2)

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The rules of inheritance differ between societies, jurisdictions and change over time. The law of inheritance differs depending on whether it is considered under customary law or under general law. Ordinarily, inheritance issues revolve around land, money and in some cases the surviving wife or wives.

Traditionally, the heir is usually the first male child. Where none exists or where one is still too young to make decisions, inheritance is passed on to a male relative of the deceased. But this practice often results in neglect and in some cases destitution for the family of the as there is usually nothing reserved for women under this arrangement.

The more enlightened ones write a will before they depart, which at times result in lots of quarrels, which are settled by the courts as the family members fail to agree. Most of these disputes arise because the husband and wife would not have discussed what is to be done in the event one passes away.

Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, a traditionalist, said men do not want to write a will because of fear and at times cultural reasons.

“To them inheritance is a secret which should not be discussed before death and a will is not a priority”, he said. “This is the same reason why some greedy relatives think they should inherit all that has been left by the deceased, mistreating widows and orphans,” he added.

In Zimbabwe, the will is a very critical document that is recognised by the laws of the land for it helps on matters to do with inheritance.

Estates and Inheritance – The Hot African Issue (Part 2 of 2)

Surprisingly, people are not keen to write wills to guide families in the event of death. Probably the fear arises out of letting close relatives know that one has a will, even if they do not divulge the details contained therein? Is it a sacred item that must be kept a secret from the rest of the family? At what stage is it prudent to prepare a will, only when one is “rich” or the moment one acquires a few assets?

Who should be the torch-bearers in the conscientisation of the members of the public about the significance of a will or just the law of inheritance?

One prominent sociologist said that there are more disputes these days mainly because people are now living in a money-obsessed culture. “The opportunity to obtain money overrides ethical behaviour around the source of the money”, the sociologist said. “Adults should openly talk to their children about their wealth and how they expect it to be shared”.

But one elderly said that it is laziness and greedy that drive disputes when distributing property of the deceased.

Estates and Inheritance – The Hot African Issue (Part 2 of 2)

Accredited to Emmanuel Kafe
Writing for The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe)

Adopted and edited by Tapiwa Zuze

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