by Damalie Tibugwisa
Majority of us are working very hard and acquiring these properties not just for us but for our beneficiaries like our children. The question is, do we have a continuity plan upon our demise? Of course once you die you have no control over what happens thereafter, leaving behind a Will is the only way you can sort of guarantee that your wishes will be upheld.
In simple terms a Will is a document that evidences the final wishes of the deceased on how his/her assets and other affairs of his/her estate should be handled. There are technical legal requirements for a Will to be valid. However, I shall not delve on that in this Article.
For obvious reasons this topic is a sensitive one for many. For example, I once had an encounter with someone who in her Will provided details of an account specifically opened to cater for her funeral expenses upon her demise. This person reasoned that she doesn’t like the practice of having to fundraise for costs that we all know will accrue. She added that in any case, its just a question of When and not if. When I shared that encounter with a friend, she said, “That person is signing a covenant with death”.
Well, paying in advance for your funeral expense may be extreme for many Ugandans but how about having a will.
I must say many Ugandans regardless of the age don’t have wills and there are several reasons for this and I shall demystify these arguments and make a case for making a will.
1. Like my friend many believe that writing a will is a tell tell sign for someone about to die. it’s signing a covenant with death. This argument is made by Christians especially which is shocking because Christians believe in life after death which was brought about through the resurrection of Christ. So as opposed to being scared of death, the hope in the resurrection should give us courage.
2. Many argue that they have not acquired enough possessions to bequeath anyway. The question you should ask yourself is, do you have anything capable of being stolen? If so then, you can bequeath that. Secondly, even if you don’t have property, do you have a message/remarks you would like to leave behind for your beneficiaries. If so, let that be the incentive for you to write a Will. Also if you say that you don’t have much property that means that you can afford a lawyer to draft a Will for you since they usually charge based on the value of your estate.
3. Others argue that they are still young and have no medical condition to make death eminent. Besides terminal conditions and even these have no certainty as to when one’s life may come to an end, no one knows when death will occur. Then again what is the right age to die. So we just might exercise some prudence and not be shocked by this sad reality.
4. I trust my family will be able to handle based on previous experiences. This is not entirely true. First of all you have never died so your experience in life can’t inform your death experience. Secondly, we have all witnessed Orphans that have been stripped of their inheritance by the very family members whom their parents cared for. I know that this could happen even in cases of a Will. However, chances of this happening could be minimal with the Will because it allows you to appoint an executor(s) as such you can appoint anyone regardless of whether they are relatives or not. This avoids cases where even if one family member cares for your beneficiary, their voice maybe silenced by for example an overbearing and domineering relative or elder. Further, you can appoint people who have qualifications to run your estate depending on the properties in question.
5. Others argue that you will be dead anyway so it does not matter. I don’t agree with this argument either. If we prepare to receive a baby who doesn’t really understand shouldn’t the same principle apply upon your demise. I think that it is cheaper and better for your family to have an instrument spelling out your wishes to avoid confusion and any uncertainties.
A will generally enables you to state your wishes in clear times upon your demise. It enables you to make an inventory of your assets so that the beneficiaries can get them upon your demise. This avoids a scenario where your properties just “rot” away as your family “starves away” all because the deceased discreetly acquired property.
A Will enables you to go against any customs or traditions that one may consider repugnant for example norms like girls can’t be heirs or can’t even own land or even where you wish to be buried.
A Will helps to resolve an ambiguities and uncertainties that arise upon someone’s demise because everything is prescribed in clear terms.
In conclusion making a Will is not signing a covenant with death. It is in harmony with all principles of prudent living. If you care enough how you deal with your assets whilst alive, you should care how they are dealt with upon your demise.
The author is an advocate and for any further comments you can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org