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The fate of a woman’s wealth

By | March 4th 2010
By | March 4th 2010

By Harold Ayodo

Single women are among the major investors in the multi-billion shilling real estate sub sector. An increasing number of spinsters in Nairobi, for example, are either private developers or partners in corporate construction firms.

Other young women who cherish financial independence are either purchasing apartments or investing in the bond market.

And judging from the number of young women in the Nairobi Stock Exchange or those who participated in Initial Public Offers (IPOs), it is clear that investment has no gender barriers. The increase of single women in their own fuel guzzlers is another pointer that they are investing.

Wealthy single women are targets of men who want a share of their fortunes. Photo: Courtesy

Property lawyers are also saying that the number of female clients they represent in land transactions is increasing. The ownership of property among women is definitely a challenge to traditionalists who believe they have no proprietary rights.

Prey to men

However, some of the female investors are falling prey to men who want a share of the fortunes.

The investment factor is among the reasons more young men in urban areas eye older women with property, according to relationship experts. The belief that young women cannot own houses or cars is fading.

Interestingly, women in Britain could also not own property and husbands automatically acquired rights on investments of their wives upon marriage. This changed with the passing of the Married Women’s and Property Act (MWPA) of 1882, which enabled them own property. The MWPA further conferred women rights to also dispose off their property by writing wills.

Back home, some of the wealthy women investors have resolved to remain single either by choice or experience in relationships, to safeguard their property. Others either have their own children, live with relatives or resolved to adopt and raise children.

Fate of wealth

As the women embrace investment, questions abound over the fate of their property when they die. Some in corporate firms, for fear of the fate of their property in death, prefer to invest all their money in further education.

However, the Law of Succession Act provides for how the investments of spinsters should be distributed upon death.

According to the Act, the estate of an unmarried woman without children is inherited by her father or in his absence her blood brother.

In cases where the woman has many brothers, her property will be shared equally between them. The distribution of property of an unmarried woman with children is different as the children have priority over everyone else. The property of a married woman is inherited by her husband — whether he contributed to it or not.

The writer is a lawyer and journalist

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