After a person dies, it is very important that his or her property, be it land, livestock,
furniture, motor vehicles, grinding mills, kitchen equipment or agricultural equipment
is properly protected and distributed according to law.
The property that a deceased person leaves has to be used to pay those he or she owes
money to and to provide support for the members of his or her family. After these requirements have been met, the rest of the property is shared as directed by the deceased persons Will or by laws that say how the property of a deceased person not dealt with in a will is to be shared among his or her family.
Once someone dies, it is the responsibility of his or her spouse (husband or wife), grown
up child or some other family member to look after the property that belongs to the
deceased person until the estate can be properly administered. If none of these people
are available, it is the responsibility of the person who owns or is looking after the place
where the deceased person died to look after the property of the deceased.
Government, through the Deceased Person’s family Maintenance Act, has made it an
offence for any person to take property left by a deceased person or to stop the family
of the deceased from occupying and using the land and property left by the deceased.
This is similar to the customary laws in which the widow and children of a deceased
man were left to occupy and use the land that had been allocated to him by his family or
tribe. No one was allowed to chase the wife and children away from the land. A period
of around a year was allowed for the wife or wives to decide what they wanted to do,
whether to stay with their husband’s family or to return to their own natal families.
Both Government’s law and the customary law are designed to protect the family of the
After someone dies and the steps have been taken to protect the family and property of
that person, steps need to be taken to ensure that the estate is properly accounted for and
distributed to those who are entitled to receive portions of it.