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a Will, A publication of the Legal Resources Foundation
October 25, 2005
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What is a Will?
A will is a legal document which says who must get your property when
Why Make a Will?
has to face the problems that come when someone dies. It is difficult
to lose any family member, but the most serious problems often occur when
the person who dies is the one who owned the family house and other property.
Usually, this is the
father and husband, but often it is the mother when she was a single parent.
In Zimbabwe, some people have seen a chance to make themselves rich when
one of their relatives dies. They may move in and claim their brother's
or sister's house and other property and leave the widow and children
Although this has
always been against the law, many widows and children do not know their
rights. Under the old customary law of inheritance, it was easy for a
relative who was appointed an heir to take the deceased person's property
and use it. We now have a new inheritance law. Under the new law, when
a man dies without leaving a will, his wife will inherit the matrimonial
home and the wife and children will inherit the rest of his property.
The practice of grabbing property has always been illegal, but we hope
that now it will not happen as often as it used to.
However, if a person
wants to be certain that his family will not suffer after he dies, he
will be wise to plan ahead and make a will.
Fears About Wills
do not like to think about dying, and as a result do not plan for looking
after their family after their death.
People also have fears
about wills. They think that if they write a will they are likely to die
immediately. Or they think that if they write a will the beneficiaries
(people who the will says must inherit their property) will kill them
in order to get the inheritance sooner. But many people do write wills
and keep them for many years before they die. If you are afraid someone
will kill you to get an inheritance, then there is no need for them to
know that you have left something to them.
Some men do not want
to leave the marital home to their wife, because they fear she might remarry
and then her new husband would get the property instead of his own children.
In this case, it is possible to leave the house for the wife to use, but
not to own. The will can specify that she will have the use of the house
only as long as she does not marry. She cannot sell the house.
If You Have No
If you do
not leave a will, the law will determine how your property will be divided.
Although there are different rules for people under civil and customary
law, in both cases the property will be inherited by the spouse or spouses
and the children, with the spouse getting the house. The parents, brothers
and sisters of the deceased person may only get a share if there are no
Who Can Make a
- Any person over
sixteen can make a will.
- Both men and women,
married or single, can make wills. Today many women also own property
as well as men.
- A man who makes
a will is called a testator. A woman who makes a will is called a testatrix.
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