Five frequently asked questions about wills and inheritance

How do I make a will?

Lawyer Brenda Majune, says that there is no standard form of writing a will in Kenya.

A will is valid as long as the person making the will is above 18 years old and sane, and does so without coercion or undue influence.

The will also needs to be properly signed by the writer (if it is in writing) and witnessed by two or more adults of sound mind, who also sign it. The maker of the will details the properties and the beneficiaries whom they bequeath.

Must I leave something behind for my children?

While children, regardless of age and gender, have a right to inherit, the law does not compel any parent to leave an inheritance for them. It is therefore not uncommon to hear that despite their massive wealth, parents have disinherited their children for one reason or another, explains Ms Majune.

However, the disinherited child can petition the court to consider giving them a portion, which, at the sole discretion of the court, sometimes may go against the wishes of the deceased.

Are my daughters less entitled to inherit my property?

The Law of Succession Act does not discriminate on the gender of the children that are allowed to inherit. Conflict, however, arises in traditions that disinherit girls. But courts have come in to resolve this conflict and laid down jurisprudence to guide this misconception, disregarding all traditions considered discriminative.

Isn’t my next of kin information just as good as a formal will?

In most business transactions in Kenya, individuals are required to name their next of kin. However, it does not mean that the money automatically passes to the person named as the next of kin if the account holder dies. If the person dies having made a valid will and passed the money to that next of kin, then the money is inherited legally. However, if there is no will that directs that the money be transferred to the next of kin, it is not automatically passed to them, and is therefore distributed according to the law. Ms Majune says indicating the next of kin is merely for the purposes of contacts in the event that the person transacting cannot be reached and has nothing to do with inheritance.

What are the current trends regarding wills?

Ms Majune explains that written wills are gaining popularity in Kenya as people are beginning to think more progressively. ''I was surprised lately when I received instructions from a 29-year-old man looking to write a will. That is positive but we still have a long way to go,'' she says.


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