Our team will assist in:
- Drafting, interpreting and registration of wills
- Estate planning including formation, registration and administration of Trusts
- Deceased estate administration
- Litigation surrounding succession and other legal issues arising out of a person’s death
- All dealings with the Master of the High Court
- Obtaining valuations of assets and liabilities, the winding up of the deceased estate
- The resolution of disputes and claims of all creditors and heirs
- The payment of liabilities and the distribution of the net assets to beneficiaries
- Safe custody services
Estate Planning and Administration
Byron J. Symeonoglou: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
If a person who has died (the deceased) owns assets including bank account funds, company shares, movable or immovable property in Zimbabwe, it is called the “deceased’s estate”. What happens to that deceased’s estate is regulated by the Zimbabwean law called the Administration of Estates Act [Chapter 6:01].
There is a duty on every person who is in possession of (or who comes into possession of) a document that appears to be the will of a deceased person, to deliver such document to Master of the High Court in Harare, or to the Assistant Master in Bulawayo or to magistrate for the relevant district, as applicable.
If a deceased person’s will has been deposited (per above), it shall be registered by the Master or Assistant Master into the Register of Wills.
After registration of a deceased will (per above), the validity of the will and its legal effect may be questioned, which decision shall be decided by the High Court.
- The surviving spouse of a marriage in community of property should within 30 days of the spouse’s death cause an inventory of all property, goods and effects, movable and immovable, of whatsoever kind, which at the time of the death formed part of the joint estate. The inventory must be made in the presence of two impartial witnesses being of good credit and repute (for example a lawyer or a pastor) and in the presence of interested persons as may attend (for example heirs or legatees to the joint estate). The inventory shall be signed by the surviving spouse, the two witnesses and any attending heirs or legatees which are present.
- The surviving spouse or children or next of kin or person in charge of the property of the deceased who was married out of community of property should within 14 days after the person’s death cause an inventory of all property, goods and effects, movable and immovable, of whatsoever kind, belonging to the deceased and being in the house or on the premises at the time of death. The inventory must be made in the presence of two impartial witnesses being of good credit and repute (for example a lawyer or a pastor) and shall be signed by the person making the inventory and by the two impartial witnesses.
- On sufficient cause, the Master or a judge of the High Court may order any person to make an inventory of a deceased’s estate or the joint estate of any deceased and a surviving spouse
There is a duty on the person who makes an inventory of a deceased estate (as above) to forthwith deliver such document to Master of the High Court in Harare, or to the Assistant Master in Bulawayo or to magistrate for the relevant district, as applicable.
- If the surviving spouse from a marriage in community of property willfully neglects to make an inventory of the joint estate or fails to do so within the 30 days required, or knowingly leaves out any article of property whatsoever, the surviving spouse shall forfeit all rights and interests in the thing left out as well as all rights and interests in anything accruing to the estate after the spouse’s death.
- The willful making of a false inventory leaves the person guilty of an offence under Section 19 of the Administration of Estates Act [Chapter 6:01] and liable to penalty in the form of a fine.
- The surviving spouse from a marriage in community of property shall take charge of the joint estate until such time as a person lawfully appointed by the Master’s office takes over administration of the joint estate.
- The surviving spouse or children or next of kin or person in charge of the property of the deceased who was married out of community of property shall take charge of the deceased’s estate and shall retain the assets in their custody until such time as a person lawfully appointed by the Master’s office demands delivery of the assets of the deceased estate.
- Where necessary or expedient the Master may appoint a curator bonis to take custody and charge of any estate until such time as a person is lawfully appointed by way of letters of administration as executor testamentary or as executor dative. A curator bonis shall be entitled to sell or dispose of perishables belonging to the estate but this shall require the Master’s specific consent. The appointment as curator bonis can be challenged for review by any person having an interest in the estate and may be confirmed or set aside by the High Court or any judge, who may appoint some other fit and proper person as curator bonis.
Someone dies leaving a valid will, is said to have died “testate”, and the deceased person who made the will is called the “testator” for a male or “testatrix” for a female. The deceased’s estate will be administered and distributed according to the terms of the valid will.
Someone who dies without leaving a valid will, is said to die “intestate” and the deceased’s estate will be administered and distributed according to intestate law (the law of succession of the applicable country). The Zimbabwe law of succession is contained in the Administration of Estates Act [Chapter 6:01]. It states who gets what in the event of the deceased person not leaving a valid will.
This is a single paged document called and titled “letters of administration” in which a named person is appointed by the Master of the High Court to administer a named deceased estate. Whether a person dies with a will or without a will, their estate is administered by such person appointed in terms of “letters of administration” in the prescribed form in terms of Section 23 of the Administration of Estates Act [Chapter 6:01].
Anyone can be appointed the executor of a deceased estate in terms of the will but this requires confirmation by the Master under letters of administration. If no one is appointed executor in the will or if there is no will, the Master will appoint an executor. The executor can be anyone. It could be a surviving spouse, a child, a family relative, an independent person such as a lawyer or pastor or it could be a professional executor such as the Scanlen & Holderness estates manager who has vast experience in this field and has herself worked in the Master’s office many years ago before joining Scanlen.
What are the requirements for a valid will?
What are the duties of an executor of a deceased estate?
What is the difference between marriage in community of property and marriage out of community of property?
What is an executor dative?
What is a tutor as an executor?
What is a curator bonis?
What is a legatee?
Scanlen & Holderness is a Harare law firm offering a full circle of legal services. Whether you need a Zimbabwe Lawyer to plan or administer an estate in Zimbabwe, a beneficiary inheritance lawyer to submit your claim against a deceased estate, a competent executor of an estate, or perhaps assistance to draft or register a family trust, or simply a lawyer to advise you how to draft a will, the firm’s team has an estate manager and various estate lawyers willing and able to assist in all legal matters.