International Inheritance Laws

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    The inhabitants of Kenya are the Africans, Muslims and Hindus. Africans in Kenya have a customary law that favors men over women and the privileges and rights of the country are enjoyed by men and not the women. In the various groups with the different ethnicities and backgrounds of Kenya there are different laws.
    In Kenya heirs are one’s family members and there are two societies and they are the patrilineal society and the matrilineal society with polygamous households who are traced back to their ancestors. Within the Kenyan country there are tribes such as the Digo and the Durma and they are matrilineal, unlike the Gkuyuni tribe who is from the patrilineal society but prior to them being patrilineal they were matrilineal. The person who is responsible and recognized as the agent for the deceased property is called in Kenya the “Muramati”. The “Muramati” is usually male or female and they act as the guardian with responsibilities of managing the deceased property, controlling the property and making decisions regarding the distribution of the shares of the estate and also if a Will was made by the deceased or not. The Wills under Gikuyu customary law is oral and is made by an elderly man or an elderly woman who is on their death bed. Wills could not be made by young persons or insane or senile persons in Kenya. However there is a requirement to the validity of the Will.
    Among Muslims, Islamic Law of Succession is of great importance and it is of a religious nature. The Holy Koran which is the religious book of the Muslim religion teaches that the Muslims must learn the laws of inheritance to obtain knowledge. The Muslim believers also learn through the Koran that only a third of the deceased’s estate can be dealt with by a Will and a person can dispose of his property as he Wills in his/her lifetime but he cannot reduce or enlarge the shares of those who are likely to inherit. A Muslim who is sane, rational and above the age of fifteen years old can make a Will. The Will does not have to be written or signed and it need not be attested.
    Hindus Law of Succession state that Hindus believe in humanity equality. Hindus believe that family life is the most important factor for Hindu families to lead a full life. Property does not belong to the individual like other inhabitants of Kenya of Hindu descent, it belongs to the community. Property is rarely distributed. Under Hindu Law of Succession all the property that a Hindu possesses at death passes to his/her heirs unless he/she has made a Will.
    The Law of Inheritance made by the Hindu society cannot be altered by a private arrangement and neither can it be changed by a Will. Hindus can make Wills under the Hindu Wills Act, 1870 of India. For a written Will to be valid under Hindu law it must be a mark of execution by the testator and it must be made before two or more competent witnesses.
    In Kenya women whether married or unmarried could make a Will just like a male Kenyan counterpart. The necessary requirements for women is that she has to be and adult of sound mind and the Will has to be oral or written.
    The intestacy laws of my country Kenya states that certain areas such as Wajir, West, Pokot, Turkana, River, Kajado, Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera and Lamu are areas that are exempt from intestacy laws because of their agriculture and livestock so if a spouse from these areas were deceased and the surviving spouse sought protection or benefits they were declared null and void and they received nothing.
    A surviving spouse in a monogamous union under the laws of intestacy in Kenya is the most suitable person to take charge of a deceased person’s property unlike the Hindu or the Muslim laws in Kenya which differs. In Kenya law it is the eldest male issue. The husband under the laws of intestacy takes a life interest in the net estate as his wife in the event of either of their deaths.
    In my conclusion the intestacy laws of Kenya and the other ethnic communities within Kenya differ in that intestacy laws is not applied to Hindus and Muslims but it does apply to the Kenyans from the African customary laws. The Kenyan women cannot benefit from the intestacy provisions as there is no provisions implemented to elevate their status like in New York where regardless of your gender you are eligible to inherit as long as you meet the requirements. In New York with a surviving spouse and no issue the surviving spouse is entitled to inherit everything. In Kenya with a surviving spouse and no issue the spouse receives the personal and household effects of the deceased with either the first kshs which is $10,000 or twenty percent of the residue or the net intestate estate and a life interest in the whole remainder but to inherit she must not remarry.

    Works Cited:
    Dr. Patricia Kameri-Mbote -The Law of Succession In Kenya: Gender Perspectives in Property/Management and
    Control
    http:/www.ielrc.org/content/b9501.pdf(last visited June 1, 2012).

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