By Paul Muleme
In Africa, there is a tradition of persons fearing to make wills and declare their wealth to the biological families and immediate beneficiaries due to several factors like fear of theft ,cultural beliefs, lack of awareness of the benefits for openness, nature of the surrounding environment however as time has transcended and with great evolution of man’s wants and needs, it has turned out disastrous to the immediate beneficiaries like the children, dependents when a person becomes deceased, when nothing is found documented to highlight one who manages what or takes what to maintain the legacy of the already established family assets.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party or trustee to hold assets, documents on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries .
They help in controlling wealth , protect the family legacy and reduces court fees and taxes.
On several incidences people’s wealth has been taken by intruders at the expense of the rightful beneficiaries which has affected the wives and children of the deceased due to absence of a clear documented will guaranteeing the wishes of the deceased.
A culture of persons to be encouraged to make their wills professionally when they still have a sober mind other than wait at the time of death is a point that should be taken into consideration. This can be witnessed by at least three parties to avoid mistrust among the stake holders.
Persons go to the extent of trusting friends with their wills and forget to involve other stakeholders. It is of paramount importance to involve different people like the church, family member, lawyer, clan elders, trustees etc … which will help streamline any benefit of doubt and avoid manipulation by one individual.
The system of administering trust through cultural institutions like clan meetings is an important avenue as a way of helping to resolve issues of family declarations’ like in Buganda there is a policy of lighting the last funeral rights where a heir to the deceased is declared to the community, however, as the world changes and evolves this should be maintained but in addition seek professional guidance in managing people’s will through trusts.
We have witnessed incidences of close persons to the deceased take advantage of the situation to process titles, fake wills in their favour without considering the actual true beneficiaries of the deceased property.
So many of these cases are in courts of law whereas this could be minimised, if there are established professional trusts that are well guided and streamlined with an act of law to guide in the administering of the will in the interest of the direct beneficiaries .
A guiding policy and law could be enacted to be enforced by the administrator general’s office that encourages persons and mature adults declare their wills with utmost confidentiality in the presence of three trustees to deter disputes that could crop up after the passing of the deceased and ensure implementation of the deceased will.
As cultural institutions play an important role in managing society, they should strengthen their positive cultural roles that enforce administering of the deceased estate in relation to his / her will through fair practice of judgment amongst the elders of the family in clan meetings.
The population should be sensitised through advocacy campaigns to have trust in declaring their wills to the appropriate stake holders to minimise conflicts among family members on the passing of the deceased and if professional trusts are established that people have confidence in, these can create as alternatives to help in arbitration to resolve unforeseen conflicts since declaration documents of the deceased will be in the hands of the trust.
There will be a need to make families work as one family unit with openness amongst themselves. This should relate from parents to children most especially when the children mature into adults it will help bring fresh ideas into the family that will ensure continuity of the family legacy but at the same time children should be encouraged to work hard to add on what has been initiated by their ancestors.
Trusts once initiated in the culture of the African society and the management of our day to day family affairs they could be an alternative way of helping to settle family disputes and if guided by a law to protect and administer fair justice on behalf of the beneficiaries to the deceased.
The writer is a teacher and a businessman