with Raziah Ahmed
2548 BC, some 1,200 years before Prophet Moses brought the
Commandments that honoured parents, a testamentary disposition
of property was left in Egypt, witnessed by two scribes, and
written on papyrus. In this document property was transferred
to the wife of the deceased, and a guardian was named for
children who were minors.
Since then, States (government powers) have devised their
own laws with respect to testamentary disposition. If a person
dies without a Will, he dies "intestate," and locally,
the State divides his property between wife and children,
in proportion of one-third and two thirds respectively.
It would be necessary for the claimant or claimants to file
for Letters of Administration from the Courts, before property
can be distributed. There then follows a period of six weeks
during which there is an advertisement in the official news
of Parliament, and in the daily newspaper. This advertisement
is notice to all, that the estate is being claimed.
It also works as advice for other claimants to file their
claims, if they believe they have some legal right to property
in the estate. This will include persons/institutions who
lent money to the deceased, Board of Inland Revenue etc.
Banks will freeze the accounts held in the name of the deceased
solely, until such time as the Courts decide who gets what.
Lending institutions will also call in their loans
eg motorcar and mortgages.
Evidence of relationship
This process of getting Letters of Administration can take
longer than a year, while claimants begin to assemble the
documents that represent their claims/ownership of the deceased
ie the deeds, certificates of ownership, bank books, insurance
polices, etc, as well as liabilities, eg loans.
In the case of spouse and children, evidence of relationship
must be furnished.
The length of time spent in assembling the documents can be
extended further, due to the element of emotional loss and
a sense that money cannot replace the human being who has
departed. However, financial need eventually propels action!
With respect to insurance polices and individual annuity policies,
the designation of Estate requires that the insurer
await the courts for a document by which means the rightful
beneficiaries can be recognised by the insurer company. This
could result in a long wait before the heirs receive the proceeds
of Insurance policies.
However, insurance policies allow for the direct disbursement
of all proceeds, within a few days of death, through the provision
of a named beneficiary designation. In fact, my
experience is that the Insurance cheque, for named beneficiaries,
is usually the first cheque that is delivered to the family
of the deceased. And, with a good agent this usually takes
place within a few days of the death.
If the deceased dies with a will, there is also a period of
time during which the executor will apply for probate, assemble
the estate, and begin disbursements.
There are two important points to remember in writing the
will. With respect to witnesses, a witness cannot be an heir.
If a witness to the will is named to inherit any portion of
the estate, the will is void. Secondly, with respect to married
people, if the marriage was dissolved by divorce after the
will was witnessed, the will is void. In both cases, then,
the course will be: Letters of Administration.
In the Arab culture, 1400 years ago, distinct inheritances
equations became law. What is peculiar about these laws is
that provision was made not only for the descendants and spouse
of the deceased, but provision was also made for the ascendants,
the parents, of the deceased.