Inheritance feud unveils mayor's vast estate and contested will

The late Nakuru Mayor, Joseck Thuo. [File, Standard]

When the late former Nakuru Mayor, Joseck Thuo, was alive, his affluence was evident to anyone who heard of, saw, or crossed paths with him.

However, the question that arises is just how wealthy was he? Court records have now unveiled the extent of Thuo's wealth, revealing an empire valued at Sh1 billion. This substantial wealth was distributed across blue-chip companies, real estate holdings, and the hotel industry.

According to documents presented in court as part of a legal proceeding to allocate his estate among family members, Thuo's most valuable assets encompassed land holdings, shares in various companies, investments in Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (Saccos), ownership of hotels and resorts, as well as residential and commercial properties.

His last will and testament are currently under dispute within the legal arena, contested by family members. These documents are included in a compilation of records before the court, outlining how he intended to distribute his estate.

Mayor was their uncle?

In August 2022, Harrison Ngeta and Nahashon Kabiri initiated a petition to the High Court in Nakuru, seeking probate of Thuo's will. In their application, Ngeta and Kabiri claimed that the presented will was the original document of the deceased.

They asserted that they were the executors named in the will, further asserting that the late mayor was their uncle.

"The deceased passed away, leaving behind a valid will dated February 3, 2016. We are seeking a grant of representation for the deceased because we are the executors named in the deceased's will," Ngeta and Kabiri said in a joint affidavit supporting their application.

Subsequent to the application, Susan Wanjiru Thuo, the widow, and her children - Nixon Kariuki Thuo and Maureen Judy Mukami Thuo - voiced their objections to the application by Ngeta and Kabiri.

Legal requirements

In his capacity as Thuo's son, Kariuki submitted a cross-petition on September 22, 2022, also seeking a grant of representation. He expressed his commitment to faithfully administer the estate in accordance with the law. Kariuki stated that he believed Ngeta and Kabiri would not administer the estate in compliance with legal requirements.

"The petitioners (Ngeta and Kabiri) have initiated legal proceedings claiming that the deceased died intestate, as per Gazette Notice dated August 26, 2022, despite having filed a petition dated August 2, asserting that the deceased died testate," Kariuki said.

The late mayor's will has sparked a division among the beneficiaries of his estate. While some assert its authenticity, others contend that it is a forgery.

According to the document presented to the court, he had designated Ngeta and Kabiri as the executors and trustees of the alleged will.

Wives' share

In this will, he stipulated that his land situated along Ojijo Road, Nairobi county, along with the developments on it, shall be vested in his wives, Mary Wanjiru Thuo and Susan Wanjiru Thuo, as well as his children: James Ngeta, Geoffrey Ngeta, Erick Kimondo, Nickson Kariuki, and Judy Mukami.

The trust, as per his instructions, is responsible for covering all management and recurrent expenses, including statutory obligations. It is also mandated to annually distribute the net income equally among his aforementioned wives and children.

Furthermore, he bequeathed all of his shares in Mukami Enterprises Limited to his wives and children, to be divided equally among them.

In his will, he designated specific assets for each of his beneficiaries as follows.

His first wife, Mary, is to take full possession of a plot in Gacharageini, all shareholding interests in Volcano Group Ltd, and all interests in ACK Sacco, Nakuru Section 58 Parish.

His second wife, Susan, is granted full possession of all his shareholding interests in Lanet Welfare Group and all shares in Tena Limited.

He purportedly bequeathed his son James complete ownership of the land in Gacharage-ini Trading Centre, Muranga County, the land situated at Lanet, Nakuru County, and another parcel at Sipili Donyoloip Malirale, Laikipia.

Thuo allocated various assets to his other children as well. His son Geoffrey received land in Kiamuturi village with a tea plantation on it, a one-half (1/2) share interest in a Nakuru Municipality plot with the building on it (a property allocated to his father and Ayub Ikumu by Mirangi Tours Co. Ltd to hold in equal shares), and all shareholding interests in Countywide (Kenya) Investment Limited.

Children's allocation

Erick was given land in Gacharageini, along with the tea plantation and all associated developments, a plot measuring five acres in Gilgil Kikopey, and another plot in Naivasha/Maraigushu.

Kariuki received a plot in Gilgil. James and his daughter Judy were bequeathed Ngeta Sacco Limited shares in the ratio of 70 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

Geoffrey and Judy Mukami were designated to share portions measuring three acres and two acres of land located at Elementaita.

According to the will, James, Kariuki, and Judy Mukami Thuo were designated to share a plot in Nakuru municipality, situated along Kanu Street, with ownership percentages of 20, 60, and 20 per cent, respectively.

The will included a provision stating, "I direct that Judy's shares in the above properties be held by my executors in trust for her, provided that my executors may elect to sell the said shares to any member of my nuclear family at the market value obtained at the date of such sale and apply the proceeds thereof to the trust to be constituted in her benefit."

Additionally, the will stipulated that Mary and Erick were to receive equal shares of land known as Gilgil/Gilgil Block 1/29** Kikopey (though it should be noted that this property was sold on September 13, 2021).

Furthermore, James and Kariuki were to receive equal shares of land known as Gilgil/Gilgil Block 2/27**, while James and Erick were designated to share equal shares of Abbey House, which is situated on LR No. 209/27** Gaberoni Street, Nairobi.

The will further stated, "My entire shareholding interest in Abbey Resort Limited, comprising of 51 shares, I give to Geoffrey. In connection with this bequest, I direct that should both or any of my wives elect to dispose of their shares in the said Company, Geoffrey shall be given the first option to purchase."

Specific property

Additionally, he instructed the executors to sell his vehicle and use the proceeds at the time of his death to establish a trust for Judy.

This will, which was signed by his lawyer John Kagucia and dated February 3, 2016, allocated specific properties to his first wife, including L.R No. 49**/2 Runda Kiambu and L.R No. 37/2**/6 Nairobi West. The second wife received Nakuru Municipality/Block 18/** Kiambogo/Kiambogo Block and 2/**(Mwariki).

Since then, the second wife and her two children have contested the authenticity of the will filed in court, claiming it was forged. In contrast, his other sons and executors maintain that it is authentic.

Geoffrey, the son of the late mayor and the second wife (Susan) testified before Justice Heston Nyaga, affirming that the will his father left in the possession of their driver was indeed authentic.

His brother, Kariuki, mother, Susan, and sister, Judy, have raised objections.

Geoffrey clarified that his brother was the one who received the will from their father's driver during the funeral arrangements. Thuo was said to have carried it with him everywhere he went.

"Nixon was given the will, which he opened. It is precisely the one that the court possesses today. We discovered that it was prepared by Kagucia, the advocate, and it has not been altered," Geoffrey said.

After perusing the said will, Geoffrey said his brother handed it to his mother and read it aloud once more, expressing his confusion as to why his father had allocated him less property, indicating that he felt unloved.

"We consoled him, urging him to allow us to proceed with burying the deceased. He retained a copy of the will, which was the only one we observed on that day," he added.

He went on to mention that he played a supportive role in helping his sister after their father's passing, something that his mother, Susan, opposed to further her own selfish interests.

"My mother should be the last person to suggest that the will is a forgery or fabricated. She and my brother are committing perjury," he asserted.

Geoffrey explained that Gacharageini Farm 20**, was managed by his stepmother, Mary, while his father oversaw Gacharageini 24** and 24**. He accused Susan of refusing to co-sign checks from the estate account, causing difficulties in accessing the funds.

Furthermore, he accused Susan of withholding Sh2 million that had been donated to both spouses by sympathizers during the burial, without sharing it with her co-wife.

Copies of the will

He recounted that when his father fell ill, he instructed him to safeguard his briefcase. After his father's passing, he opened the briefcase and discovered two additional copies of the will inside, which were identical to the contested copy in court.

Following the discovery, he recounted that the family consulted the deceased's lawyer and verified the will, confirming that it was indeed authentic and identical to the original will.

He went on to explain that the family held meetings regarding the will, but Nixon stopped attending as he raised unfounded concerns of will forgery.

Ngeta, the mayor's nephew, informed the court that Nahashon Kabiri and himself were appointed as Thuo's will executors in 2015. Thuo had requested copies of their identity cards to facilitate this, which they provided. In 2016, Thuo informed them that he had created the will at the Kagucia firm, appointing them to read the will after his death.

Ngeta testified that two months prior to his death, the mayor invited Kabiri and him to his Abbey Resort to confirm that the will would be read after his demise. He learned about the will through Thuo's driver following the mayor's passing.

Three days later, he received a call from Nixon, the objector, informing him of a meeting at the lawyer's office to verify the authenticity of the will. The lawyer confirmed that it was indeed the legitimate will created by his uncle.

He claimed that the family held five meetings where Nixon raised issues, claiming that his father had left him with few properties, wanting the will to be adjusted to allow him to get more properties.

As executor, he noted that he requested the family to address the issues raised by Nixon which at the time was the only issue over the will. Nixon alleged that his brother Geoffrey, his step brothers and his cousins colluded in altering the will.

Justice Nyaga ordered that the will be kept in safe custody in court.

The hearing of the case proceeds on October 25.