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Guide on Inheritance Laws in Zimbabwe
Justice for Children Trust
September 27, 2006
pamphlet is intended to be a guide on the inheritance laws in Zimbabwe.
The objective is to assist people in acquiring knowledge on how
the estate of a deceased person who did not leave behind a will
should be administered. In other words it deals with intestate succession.
of an estate of a deceased person is the registering of the estate
and the distribution of the property thereof. When a person dies
leaving behind property, the nearest relative or connection of the
deceased must, within 14 days register the estate of the deceased.
DOES ONE REGISTER AN ESTATE?
estate is registered either at the High Court or at the Magistrates
Court. Where an estate is registered is determined by the following:
- When a deceased
person leaves behind a will, the estate is registered at the High
- Non Africans
and Africans married under the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] (popularly
known as [Chapter 37]) should have their estates registered at
the High Court.
- If a person
is a single African and his or her parents are married under the
Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11], that personís estate should be registered
at the High Court.
married under the Customary Marriages Act [Chapter 5:07] (popularly
known as Chapter 238) or living under unregistered customary law
unions, should have their estate registered at the Magistrate
- If a person
is a single African and his or her parents have a registered customary
marriage or living under an unregistered customary law union then
the estate should be registered at the Magistrates Court.
If one is not
sure of where to go then he should approach the nearest Magistrate
Court for assistance as to where to register an estate.
AND USE OF ESTATE PROPERTY PENDING ITS DISTRIBUTION
law provides that upon the death of a person his/her family, namely
his wife/husband and children, shall have the right of use of the
immovable property household goods and effects, vehicles, animals
and crops, which they were using immediately before the death of
the deceased until the estate has been wound up.
The law prefers
the deceasedís spouse as a custodian of the estateís property pending
the appointment of an executor.
SUCCESSION UNDER GENERAL LAW
Law applies to those estates that are registered at the High Court.
of an executor
executor is a person appointed to carry out the obligation of the
deceased. Upon the death of the deceased, the Master will call upon
the surviving spouse, if the person was married, and five relatives
of the deceased to an edict meeting where they can choose an executor.
If they fail to do so then the master may appoint someone to be
of an executor
executor has the following duties:
- List the
property of the deceased in an inventory.
the estate in the Government Gazette and newspaper circulating
in the district where the deceased resided at the time of his
death to inform debtors and creditors so as to enable him to pay
creditors and collect debts for estate;
an account, which shows what the deceased had and what he owed
to creditors; and distributes the estate property to the beneficiaries.
of the executor
the beneficiaries are not satisfied with the way the executor is
performing his duties they can lodge a complaint with the Master
of High Court who has the authority to remove him.
of the estate property
the deceased had a spouse and children, then the spouse is entitled
to the house and household goods and effects. In addition the spouse
is entitled to $200 000.00 or a childís share whichever is greater.
All legitimate children of the deceased will get an equal share
each from the residue of the estate after the spouse has been given
SUCCESSION UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW
is regulated by the Administration of Estates Amendment Act No.
6 of 1997, which applies to people to whom customary law applied
at the time of their death.
- All customary
law marriages whether registered or unregistered, are valid for
the purpose of inheritance except that if a person contracts a
registered or unregistered customary law marriage when he is already
married to someone else under the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11]
the customary marriage will not be valid.
- If a woman
marries under the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] a man who is already
married under customary law to someone else, then the last marriage
will be treated as a customary law marriage for purposes of inheritance.
of an executor
When a person dies, the Master of High Court will call
his family to appoint an executor of the deceasedís estate at an
edict meeting. If the family does not agree to an executor, the
Master will appoint one.
has duties similar to those of an executor under general law. The
only difference is that under customary law the executor has to
draw up an inheritance plan, which should address the following
of the estate amongst the beneficiaries
or application of the net estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries;
or sale of any property of the net estate, and for the benefit
of the beneficiaries; and
of any beneficiaries
does this in consultation with the family of the deceased and intended
beneficiaries and he should try to obtain the beneficiariesí agreement
to the plan. The executor should then submit the inheritance plan
to the Master. If the Master is satisfied that the inheritance plan
has been drawn in terms of the law then he may approve it and authorize
the executor to distribute the estate in accordance with it. If
the Master is not satisfied that the plan has been done in consultation
with the family and beneficiaries and that all the beneficiariesí
consent has been obtained, he shall refuse to approve the plan until
the requirements of the law have been complied with.
an executor does not carry out his duties properly then the beneficiaries
may report to the Masterís office for the executorís removal. This
should be done only when an executor is not administering the estate
in the interests of everyone concerned.
How is property
the deceased is survived by more than one wife and had more than
one child then one third of his net estate is shared among his wives
of which the first wife gets two shares and the other wives get
the remainder of the one third in equal shares. The remaining two
thirds of the net estate are shared equally amongst the deceasedís
children or their descendants if any.
If the wives
were living in different houses owned by the deceased person at
the time of his death, then they each get ownership of the house
and all household goods in the house in which they so lived or if
ownership of the particular house is not possible the wife should
get a usufruct over that house. If they all lived in one house and
if it is impossible to get ownership then they will retain the right
to use the house.
In case where
the deceased is survived by one wife and one or more children, the
surviving spouse should get ownership of or, if that is impracticable,
a usufruct over the house in which the spouse lived at the time
of the deceased personís death together with all household goods
in that house and $200 000.00 or a childís share whichever is greater.
The children will each get an equal share from the remainder of
the net of the estate.
If the deceased
person is a woman who is survived by a husband with more than one
wife and she had one or more children, the husband is entitled to
a third of the net estate and the remainder goes to the children
in equal shares.
Where the deceased
person is not survived by a spouse but by a child or children, then
the net estate should devolve upon that child or those children
in equal shares.
law an heir is only entitled to inherit the name, tsvimbo or intonga
or any traditional items of the deceased, which under customary
law pass to his heir.
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