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Spouses can't be automatic managers of deceased partners' property, court rules

The court has final discretion on who should administer contested estates. [iStock]

Spouses are not the automatic managers of their deceased partners’ estates, the High Court has ruled.

Justice Teresia Matheka of the Nakuru High Court ruled that spouses will not be allowed to take over control of their partners’ estate on basis of them being spouses alone.

Justice Matheka said that for them to be given the grant of letters of administration of their partners’ properties, they have to prove they deserve more than other dependants.

“Spouses have to prove before the court that they are the most qualified to manage the properties of their deceased counterparts,” ruled Ms Matheka.

The judge said spouses felt more entitled by the law, culture, and hierarchy to take over the control of the properties after the death of their partners.

In her Monday ruling, Matheka said that under Section 66 of the Law of Succession Act, the court is given a priority list to determine the administrator.

Under the section, the court has final discretion on who should administer contested estates in cases where there was no will written.

“When a deceased has died intestate (without writing a will), the court shall have a final discretion as to person whom a grant of letters of administration shall be issued to,” reads the Act.

The Act also states that the court will consider general guidance from surviving spouses, children, and other beneficiaries entitled to the estate.

Control of the property may also be given to the public trustee and creditors and executors of wills. [iStock]

More entitled

“The priority will only be according to their proven respective beneficial interests and not whether they feel more entitled,” said Matheka.

The Act states that the control of the property may also be given to the public trustee and creditors and executors of wills.

Matheka said this in a ruling in an application by a widow to former politician Kibowen Komen. Ms Rachael Komen wanted to be the administrator of her husband’s estate.

It was her submission through lawyer Daniel Kisilah that she was the most qualified, being the Kibowen’s only surviving widow.

“She is first in line to be the manager of the deceased’s estate,” claimed Kisilah.

However, Matheka said she was unqualified because she surrendered her rights when she resigned as an administrator in 2017.

She saw no reason to appoint Ms Komen in place of one of her four grandsons who were proposed to be administrators.

“She has not put any evidence to support her application to be the administrator and replace one of her grandsons,” ruled Matheka.

Matheka thus confirmed Komen’s grandsons as the administrators and issued them with the grant and the Certificate of Confirmation of the grant.