Dogs, girlfriends and charities in Wills…Master of High Court raises concern

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ADOPTED Western cultures have been blamed for irresponsible decisions on the exection of deceased’s estates with the Master of High Court Mr Eldard Mutasa expressing concern over Wills that leave estates to dogs, girl/boyfriends or charity organisations while family members live in abject poverty.

Speaking at the opening of High Court office in Gweru, Mr Mutasa said the internet had opened floodgates for cultural dilution promoting irresponsible decisions on distribution of property after death. He said his office was privy to cases where immediate family members were left disgruntled because of Wills with culturally irresponsible pronouncements that could have been adopted from other countries.

He advised that people must write their Wills with a clear conscience considering the welfare of the immediate family pointing out that the law always rule according to the Will.

“We have noted that because of the internet people are adopting different cultures, some which are not morally acceptable in our societies. You find our people following some cultures that give the whole estate to a dog, some can give the whole estate to a charity organisation, and that becomes their choice despite the fact that the children would be left without meaningful property to inherit,” he said.

The Master of the High Court urged people to avoid writing Wills while trigger happy or when they were angry.

“We encounter cases where some people give their estates to a girlfriend or boyfriend leaving his or her family without anything meaningful to inherit. I would like to advise people not to write their Wills when they are too excited or angry. The law would follow that regardless of how irresponsible that Will may sound,” he noted.

He said inheritance was not a business venture where people would say “so and so” did not contribute to the estate.

“There are cases where a man dies a few months after marrying a second wife whilst he spends more that 20 or so years with the first wife. Some would argue that the second wife is not entitled to the estate. I can tell you that person is entitled, no matter how unjust this may sound, but it is perfectly legal even if that person has been married for only a week,” he said.

He highlighted that within Zimbabwe there were cultures which are discriminatory when executing deceased’s property, where other children are viewed as more entitled than others.

“If the whole process of property distribution is left to the family elders you would find out that some children will not benefit from the estate because of some cultural values. We have dealt with cases where girls are denied access to the property because it is assumed that they are promoting a “wrong family”. Some cultures also believe that the eldest son has to take the most expensive things while other siblings are let to go with nothing valuable,” said Mr Mutasa.

He said his office had a constitutional mandate to handle deceased estate, insolvent estates and companies going through financial distress adding that they were decentralizing offices in line with devolution.

“Midlands is the sixth province that we have set up an office and our target is to cascade down to district level and also setting up service points in the wards for the convenience of our clients,” he said.

Mr Mutasa said about 70% of the cases they deal with were inheritance issues at family level.

“The deceased estate cases constitute the bulk of our work. Unlike other cases, death is untimely, and at one point everyone is going to die and no one is going to be buried with his or her property.

“As the Master of High Court, we’re there to make sure that due processes are followed and there is an executor to lead the process and that person is appointed through our office,” he said.

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