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Widow separated from polygamous husband for 20 years inherits half his estate

A widow, who had separated from her polygamous husband for 20 years, has inherited half of the man’s estate after the co-wife failed to prove to the court that she had been divorced.

Ms Mary Wanjiru laid claim to a stake of the estate of Laban Kamau, who died in 1998, after learning that her co-wife Agnes Wangechi had not listed her as a beneficiary.

Justice Ali Aroni, while ruling on the succession dispute at the High Court in Milimani, Nairobi, revoked a grant of the estate representation issued to Ms Wangechi in March 1999.

In its place, the judge ordered joint administration of the estate by the two families.

He directed for issuance of a fresh grant to Robert Kamau (Ms Wanjiru’s son) representing the interest of the first house and Agnes Wangechi representing interests of the second family as joint administrators.

“Section 3 of the Law of Succession Act defines ‘wife’ to include one who is separated from the husband,” said Justice Aroni. The deceased had three children with the first wife and four with the second.

The property at the centre of the inheritance fight are parcels of lands and commercials plots spread across Nairobi, Nanyuki and Laikipia. No liabilities were listed.

Based on the law and the facts of the case, the judge found that the deceased had two wives.

For purposes of distribution of his estate, his wives and children will be considered as heirs entitled to inherit his property in accordance with Section 40(1) and (2) of the Law of Succession Act.

The court said that should the estate have any income generating assets revenue will be collected and banked in an escrow account to be opened in the joint names of lawyers involved in the dispute.

Justice Aroni also directed that the joint administrators should conduct a valuation of the assets of the estate for purposes of distribution within next 60 days.