Arusha. Bitter family conflicts over the properties left by the deceased is largely due to failure by the latter to write a will.
Retired judge Professor John Ruhangisa says many elderly Tanzanians are hesitant to write a will because it is associated with death. "Tanzanians are afraid to write a will because of their fear for death", he said during the launch of a legal talk show here over the weekend.
This, according to him, has led to life-threatening conflicts among family members over properties left by the deceased. Prof. Ruhangisa, now teaching law at the Arusha-based Makumira University, implored on the family heads to write a will in order to pre-empt such disputes.
"There is no need to fear writing a will because it is safeguarded in the law of land. It can also be challenged in court if found to have shortcomings", he said.
A will is a legal instrument that permits a person to make decisions on how his or her properties will be managed or distributed after his/her death. A will also enables a person to select his or her heirs to inherit or distribute fairly properties left to the intended beneficiaries.
It also safeguards a person's right to select an individual to serve as guardian to raise his/her children in the event of his/her death.
But Prof. Ruhangisa noted that to many Tanzanian families writing a will is generally not taken seriously until inheritance problems emerged.
An Arusha advocate Said M.Chiguma echoed, saying lately the well to do families have been mired in conflicts over inheritance of properties of the deceased in the absence of a will.
However, other discussants said the matter was more complicated because children born out of wedlock and girls are often locked out in inheriting property. "At times the parents do not agree on how the family properties should be shared.
The age old traditions are to blame", lamented retired judge Lawrence Mchome. "Our society must change", he said, noting that writing of a will is well articulated in Islamic laws, the Bible, the 1963 Government Decree and in the customary laws.
Ms Nyiramana Flora from Rwanda decried failure to treat children equally in inheritance, saying girl child has a right to inherit land like the boys.
She added that jointly acquired properties by husband and wife should be distributed fairly to those intended to inherit them.