Money-WiseKE: Safeguarding families using Wills

Last week, Money-Wise with Rina Hicks had a nice talk on “Safeguarding your Family after you’re gone: Wills and More”. Her guest was Leah Kiguatha, a family law expert who said that in the court processes encountered, only 10% of Kenyans of African descent have written wills.

Other excerpts of new stuff (from a male perspective!)

  • Why write a will? Make a decision, as if you don’t decide, someone else, who is handling a hundred other disputes, who does not know the pain and peculiarities of a family, will make that decision for you. Whether you write a will or not, there will be a court process.
  • Spousal Status Changes with Death: If a man has a secret wife and kids, he should mention and provide for them in the will. When he is alive, they may not be recognized, but once he dies, the law allows them to become wives and dependents for purpose of succession. (Laws made by a heavily-male parliament in the 1980s!)
  • Register Land: As joint ownership or in common as this enables you to by-pass the will process. Register land with someone so they are not harassed when you die. Also if a wife dies, and she expects that her spouse will remarry, through in-common ownership, she can ensure that 50% of the matrimonial house passes to her children.
  • Bank Access: Have your spouse or some older children to be signatories to a bank account and know your card PINs. If you are the only one who can access money, your family will be scrambling to feed mourners, pay school fees, and be disturbed by landlords – as it will be a year before they can access that money and after hiring a lawyer.
  • Update Records: Check your will every 5 years. Also, update your insurance, SACCO and pension beneficiary details every few years. Insurance does not have to go through a court process if a beneficiary is nominated a beneficiary, but if different people show up to claim it, they will leave it to courts to settle. Sometimes, as a widow is mounting, a brother or mother of the deceased has rushed to the employer to claim they are the intended beneficiary.
  • Reduce Unintended Beneficiaries: A will safeguards your family and minimizes disputes, and as dependent fight it out, assets and estates go to waste, or are exploited by opportunistic people. If you don’t have good records, squatters or a county government will benefit along with banks, insurance, and the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority. It is estimated that over Kshs 200 billion deposited in banks belongs to families who are awaiting court grants to release the money to them.
  • Oral wills: Are only valid for three months unless one is in the military. Also, they must be witnessed (heard) by two people, who are not beneficiaries.

The full hour is online, and you can watch it here.

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