The courts are seeing more cases where trustees given powers to manage estates of deceased family members breach the agreements and instead register the properties in their names.
The beneficiaries locked out of their inheritance have to turn to the courts to secure what is rightfully theirs. This happens when they cannot resolve the dispute at home through mediation, or when they come of age.
Some of the disputes arise from land title deeds registered under the repealed Registered Land Act in the names of family members who were holding family properties in customary trust.
Lawyer Kibe Mungai says families should avoid using the customary trust method to protect their parents’ estates.
“There is an abuse of customary trust and that is why it is important for family members to formalize agreements made by applying for letters of administration in order to make things clear on who are the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate,” he said, adding that the law of succession protects even minors in their parents’ inheritance.
Lawyer John Chigiti said the public should be sensitized on laws that govern succession matters to avoid cases where family members entrusted with the estate take everything.
Since January, the courts have ruled on more than 50 cases touching on customary trust issues and ordered for cancellation of title deeds used to lock out beneficiaries from what is rightfully theirs.
High Court Judge Dalmas Ohungo recently ruled that all registered land is subject to overriding interests as trusts, including customary trusts, which do not have to be noted in the register.
He said this in a case in which a man was sued by his two younger brothers for registering in his name a piece of land allocated to their late father by Munanda Farmers Cooperative Limited in 1971.
Paul Nuthu died in 1992 and his wife also passed away years later, forcing the sons and other relatives to hold a meeting where it was agreed under Kikuyu customary law that the suit property be registered in the eldest son’s name, who would later give his two brothers their share of the property.
But Stephen Kabuyu violated the agreement, forcing Misheck Warui and David Mwangi to go to court.