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Declare your wealth by drawing up a will

Tuesday December 15 2015
By BANKELELE

The last week has seen a refreshing new wave of wealth declarations.

This is not the first time wealth declarations have been done. Drawing and filing them is actually required of government workers and political leaders.

The difference is that, while those declarations are filed away in large dusty vaults never to be opened except in exceptional circumstances, people like Bob Collymore, Joshua Oigara, and Boniface Mwangi have made theirs public, as statements of assets and income.

These have sparked much discussion on equality, corruption, and other aspects of life.

More Kenyans should also declare their wealth. This can be done in a way that wouldn’t have to be made public. The way to do that is by writing a personal Will and statement of their intentions after they die.

There is an excellent reason for going through this exercise, which is to spare families and their friends the unnecessary agony of trying to trace and retrieve assets and income in an exercise that can take years, and in some cases, decades, to sort out. 

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Writing a Will need not be a complicated exercise. While we have all seen TV and Movie scenes with dramatic moments as Wills are revealed in court, that is a rare spectacle, which is easily avoidable.

Writing a Will does not have to be a public matter. It can simply mean a few discreet hours with a lawyer to get the instruction written, signed, and witnessed. 

When it warrants, writing a will can also be a public matter. Not all wills have to be done with lawyers in city offices.

DECLARE YOUR INTENTIONS

A person, perhaps an elderly or ill man or woman, or one who lives far away in a rural village, can call his or her children and other dependents and declare intentions for distribution and usage of the family property, in front of the whole family.

This can sometimes become an unpleasant exercise that results in jealously or bad blood, which is why some people prefer to have their intentions kept secret, until they die and cannot be questioned.

While they cannot be questioned, their decisions, written or oral, can sometimes challenged, and the newspapers have a story every few days on prominent ongoing estate cases.

While the general purpose of writing a will is for a person to communicate how their possessions, property, and other assets – movable or immovable – are to be distributed, the starting point of the exercise is always to draw up a list of these assets and possessions.

This is a tedious process that should be as detailed as possible, with land reference numbers if any, and in the case of financial assets, specific details such as account numbers, and financial institutions.

They should also note the name in which the properties are registered and the location.  

On completing the process of writing a Will, one will also have a good estimate of the wealth that’s being administered. The numbers can remain private, but they should be reviewed, and all amounts owed or liabilities should also be considered, as it’s doubtful that there’s anybody who plans to leave debts for his dependents to pay.

So declare your wealth, by drawing up a Will.

Twitter: @bankelele

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