• A will prevents unnecessary conflict among families by apportioning inheritance
What is the right time for someone to write a will? This is a question many people ponder over without resolution. For others, before we even talk of the right time, what they ponder over is whether it is even necessary.
A will can be defined as an outline a person gives regarding how their property will be dispensed with upon their death. Many people know wills to be legal documents, but a will may also be oral.
For an oral will to be valid, it must be made before at least two competent witnesses. Competent meaning one who is of sound mind and is above the age of majority. The challenge, however, comes with the other requirement: that the testator (person making the will) has to die within three months of making it (This however does not apply to members of the defence forces or armed marines, who are away from home on a mission).
On the other hand, written wills must be signed by the testator/testatrix. Such a signature must be placed on the document in such a manner as to show it intended to give validity to the will.
In addition to this, two witnesses must be present and must also append their signatures. A witness must not be a family member or a beneficiary in the will.
Where a written and oral will exist, the written will takes precedence over the oral one. Further to this, a will written by coercion, fraud, importunity or mistake is void.
Where one acquires new property or wishes to amend their will, they could do so by adding a document known as a codicil. This is the equivalent of an addendum to the will.
Writing wills is important. First, it prevents unnecessary conflict among families. Many families in Kenya are torn apart due to land disputes. This often arises from parents leaving no will and dying without having shared out their property amongst their children.
Wills may be the silver bullet to this because once written, it is final. It is worth noting that nothing in law forces a parent to leave property to their children. Which means a child can be excluded from a parent's will. It is also not a requirement that property be distributed in equal shares. The owner of the property has full autonomy to give their property as they so please.
There's also the risk of losing unknown property when a person dies. If someone had property their kin never knew existed, chances are this property may be taken over by other people, with the family losing it. Wills prevent this from happening, assuming one indicates all their property.
What's the right time to write a will? In my view, before one's death. When will that death occur? No one knows. Suffice to say, the best time to write a will is today.
The resistance of most Kenyans, and Africans at large, to writing wills stems from the fact that death is a taboo subject in most communities. Mentioning death seems like tempting the spirit of death to pick someone to meet their maker.
This is a mentality that needs to change. Death is a reality, and we need to plan for it just as we plan for our lives. Wills are beneficial. Let us embrace writing them.