What happens if I die without a will?

If you don’t have a will in place when you die it means you have “died intestate” your money, property and possessions will be shared out according to the available laws of succession in Zimbabwe instead of your wishes.

The Administration of Estates Act is the law that is used if you die without a will in place .The process is as follows:

  1. Relatives should report the death within 14 days either to the High Court or Magistrate Court

Note : An  estate can be administered by the High Court if you leave a will or you were married in terms of the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:11). If married under the customary Lawn (Chapter 5:07) the estate is registered with the Magistrate Court.

  1. An executor is chosen by either of the courts to carry out the wishes and obligations of the deceased by a person called the Master. This is done by carrying out a meeting with the surviving spouse and the children of the person who has died.
  2. The executor carries out the following duties :
  • List the property of the deceased in an inventory.
  • Publishes 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;
  • Prepares an account, which shows what the deceased had and what he owed to creditors; and distributes the estate property to the beneficiaries

Distribution of assets.

In most instances if the estate has been registered with the High Court the surviving spouse gets the house that they lived in immediately before the death and household goods and effects and the remainder of the assets is shared in equal shares between the children. The High Court has also stated that children born out of wedlock are also entitled to the inheritance.

If the estate was registered with the Magistrate Court and 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 deceased’s children or their descendants if any.

In case where the deceased is survived by one wife and one or more children, the surviving spouse should get ownership of or use over the house in which the spouse lived at the time of the deceased person’s death together with all household goods in that house. 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.

As long as you are still alive it is not too late to draw up a will to make the lives of your loved ones easy. The process taken to distribute your property if you die without a will is expensive and tedious on your loved ones and is known to take a long time sometimes in excess of six months.