An introduction to the various ways of estate planning

Covid-19 upended many things. It challenged globalisation at unprecedented levels and changed our understanding of the universe, vaccines and priorities. Yet, one gloomy cloud hovered everywhere: the reality of death. Many people lost their lives due to the virus, and everyone was a natural virus target if they did not follow the government directives. The virus exposed our vulnerabilities as a populous, and it took several people back to the drawing board. COVID-19 brought into light the need to prepare ourselves for the Eden curse:- death.

Death is scary; it takes away our loved ones. Yet, as human beings, we need to prepare for this unfortunate thing; unless the second coming happens when we are still alive. Dismally, many people do not plan for it. In the coming weeks, we shall look at preparation for death, but from a legal perspective. We shall be looking at the various ways of estate planning to avert future conflicts. Regrettably, society despises anyone who attempts to prepare their estate in the event of death. It views anyone who writes a will, for example, as one “who flirts with the devil” or is a “social pariah”, “a death wisher” or “a family hater.” Sadly, many Africans do not plan their estates. When they die, the remaining family members descend upon each other, are involved in vicious court fights, and some even pass on while fighting for the estate; case in point, The Mbiu Koinange case.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

To avoid court battles, a testator can plan their estate through legally recognised methods to avert conflict after death. However, for testators to successfully order their estates and have beneficiaries, they must understand/be part of a family. That is; only persons related by blood to the testator can inherit from the estate. Nevertheless, the testator can donate some of their wealth to charity, but we shall discuss that later. As such, there is a need to comprehend the marriage institution. Next week, Ms Stephanie Sanya shall discuss the type of marriages in Kenya and the means of operationalising them.

After comprehending marriage, we shall then look at various ways of planning your estate. In this case, we shall discuss wills; the most common, see what they are, and the challenges associated with them. Later, we shall discuss what happens when the Court invalidates the will, or when the testator dies without a will or what happens when the testator fails to include some of the property in the will: commonly known as intestate succession. Leading this front will be Ms Angela Achieng. She shall look at the intricacies of intestate succession and why we should avoid that route. Later, we shall look at peculiar, yet legal ways of estate planning: Trusts and lifetime gifts. Many Kenyans do not utilise these methods, but some such as Trusts are common in developed countries. We shall discuss them in length and see their merits.

Estate planning promises to be a long but enlightening ride. Fasten your set belts and get ready to join us for this journey. We will make it worth your time.

*Cover image credits: Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash*

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