The High Court in Eldoret will deliver a ruling next month on how the Sh700 million estate of the late Kipkosgei Arap Moita will be distributed among his 31 children.
Justice Reuben Nyakundi said the siblings, among them former prominent Kanu-era minister Henry Kosgey, have failed to agree on how to share the vast property left behind by their father for about three decades.
Some beneficiaries have since died in the course of the succession dispute. Moita died on June 11, 1992, leaving behind five widows, Bot Komingoi (six children), Bot Kirorior (six children), Tap Kigen (four children), Bot Agui (nine children) and Bot Karonei (five children).
The succession case was filed in court three years later, in 1995, by a section of the deceased’s family.
When beneficiaries of the estate appeared before Justice Nyakundi four months ago, the siblings of the former minister requested the judge to allow them resolve the inheritance dispute through the Alternative Justice System (AJS).
The Judge then directed the feuding family members to meet out of court and come up with a mode of distribution for the wealth of their late father that would be acceptable to all.
He had assured them that once they were through with the agreement as a family, he would adopt the document and sign it as a court order, thereby settling the 28-year-old inheritance conflict.
In his ruling yesterday, Justice Nyakundi directed the lawyers for parties involved in the succession case to prepare and submit written submissions before he makes a ruling next month.
“Prepare and submit written submissions ahead of the ruling, which I intend to deliver on December 14, 2023,” directed Justice Nyakundi.
The fall-outs between the family members began when a will allegedly bearing the wishes of the deceased was tabled in court by a section of the beneficiaries.
In February 2020, former High Court and now Appellate judge Hellen Omondi declared the impugned will invalid, noting that it failed to meet an essential qualification to render it legal and valid.
“It will be myopic of me to ignore the claims regarding the deceased’s mental state at the time of making the will. Consequently, the will dated January 17, 1990, be and is hereby declared invalid,” Justice Omondi ruled.
The court noted that at the time the purported will was written, Moita had suffered a stroke, could not talk, and his mental capacity was less than optimum as he could not recall with clarity all that he owned.
“The deceased left out 14 daughters in the will. Some properties, including shares in Kibwari Tea Estate Limited, were not mentioned in the will. I share the views expressed by the objector’s counsel that if declaration means narration of facts, which and intentions, how did the decease give instructions to the advocate to draft the purported will if he could not talk?” the court noted.
The court also had an issue with whether the deceased appended his thumbprint on the document, and whether he understood the contents since the purported will was written in English, and it was admitted that Moita was illiterate.
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“The signing of the will by thumbprint is questioned because the deceased was paralysed on the right side, and I agree that the failure to indicate which hand thumbprint was used raises doubts as to the signing of the will,” the judge added in her ruling.
The court also poked holes in the manner of distribution in favour of one of the beneficiaries, Julius Kirarei, who was said to have been present at the execution of the will, and who apart from being appointed executor of the will received substantial property as bequests from the deceased.
According to the lawyers, Katwa Kigen and Isaac Sambu, the family members are still divided over which mode of sharing their father's wealth should be adopted.
The court heard that a section of the deceased children wants his wealth to be shared with each of the households, while another family wants the entire estate to be consolidated into one and then shared among all the beneficiaries.
The deceased left a vast estate, which includes several acres of prime agricultural land under tea and maize crops in Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties and bank deposits.
The late Moita also had 3,000 shares in the multi-million shillings Kibwari Tea Company Limited in Nandi Hills, which is also at the centre of an inheritance dispute.
Cornelius Bungei and Reuben Kosgey are listed in succession as the administrators of the deceased’s estate.