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Widows face many unexpected challenges. Some stem from the fact that many African men keep secrets from their wives. So when a man dies, the wife may be confronted with shocking revelations especially concerning finances and property.
This is why you find some women who were very social before their husband’s death become very withdrawn when they are widowed. Some have even been auctioned because of their husband’s debts which they were never told about.
Some men take loans and others even mortgage their homes without informing their wives. When death strikes, these are some of the issues which make widowhood very tough. I have purposed to be very open with my children and update them on all my activities. It is good to put your house in order.
I will never forget a testimony shared by a widow from one of our churches. She told us how her husband used to keep all their family documents including property title deeds. When he died, she could not find a title deed of their matrimonial home. She went through the folder labelled ‘Titles’ many times, over many days, but all in vain.
She had almost given up but one day she decided to go through all the folders. As she went through a folder labelled ‘School Certificates’, right in the middle of the folder, she found the title deed which she had been looking for. She told us she knelt down and thanked God for His love and mercy. How on earth would she have thought that the title deed would be in a folder for school certificates?
She made fun of the whole situation by saying, “I am sure my husband really valued this particular property and wanted to hide it because in case someone invaded our home, they would not be interested in school certificates.” We laughed at the scenario.
Most widows have to come to terms with such issues. This shows the importance of writing a will while you’re still alive. Unfortunately, many African men don’t like writing wills. However, due to the rising cases of inheritance and family squabbles in the media, a good number are slowly buying into the idea of it.
I was once invited by a close friend to give a sermonette during the ceremonial opening of their new house. My topic was “Putting Your House In Order” and I mentioned the importance of writing a will. After my sermonette, there was a question and answer session. As I answered a few questions, I noticed some men whispering to the Master of Ceremony (MC). The MC then whispered to me that the men wanted to ask questions without their wives hearing them. I suggested they write their questions on a piece of paper anonymously and I would respond to them. There were many questions but the major ones were more of statements rather than questions:
‘I cannot write a will because my wife may divorce me and use my money with another man.’
‘I don’t want to be killed because of my property.’
‘My children might bribe my lawyer to tell them what I have.’
‘My children might decide not to work hard if they know I have a will.’
One question was: “How can I write a will when all our properties are in my husband’s name?”
I could not answer all of them in one go, and shared my contact information for those who wanted further consultation from a practical point of view. In addition, I advised them it is important to consult a lawyer on these matters.
I realized most men are scared of writing a will. What they do not realize is that writing a will actually prevents what they fear. In fact, a will may be the most important document that you ever write, because it allows you to select the persons who will receive what you own when you die.
One of the greatest challenges faced by widows in Kenya, and perhaps Africa in general, is how to handle succession when you do not have the correct information. The Internet today has provided lots of great resources on inheritance and succession, such as access to government documents like the Law of Succession Act – Cap 160 of the Laws of Kenya.
I thank God I have a close friend who is a lawyer and she has continued to give me legal advice. Early in my widowhood, I consulted her for most of the legal issues which I could not handle. She has never charged me a single cent. May God bless her and grant her all the desires of her life. I have constantly prayed for her and God has granted her uncommon favor in her professional life. They say you reap what you sow. She has been promoted many times.
It is important as a widow to identify a person who can give you legal advice. I thank God for my church which invites various professionals to talk to widows and other groups.
The CITAM Golden Edge Ministry (for people aged 55 and above) had a meeting on 8th August, 2021. The topic was “Succession, Probate and Administration: A Christian Perspective”. The keynote speaker was Hon. Justice Daniel Musinga, President of the Court of Appeal, Kenya. Hon. Justice Musinga is a committed Christian and a member of CITAM.
This is the best presentation I have ever heard on inheritance, wills and the laws that govern succession in Kenya. It was simple and clear. May God bless him mightily together with his family and grant him uncommon favour in his career.
Hon. Justice Musinga was accompanied by a panel of experts, Advocates Burton Isinde and Julius Kitheka who are also committed Christians and members of CITAM. There was a Q&A session that the panel handled.
After burying my husband, I faced challenges I had never anticipated. When you grow up, you think of having a good education, getting a job, getting married and having a family. These were my heart’s desires. Death featured nowhere in my plans. But even in this unexpected journey, God has kept me.
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.Romans 14:8 NIV