In Summary
  • According to Dr Mwimali, it is important to note that while payment of most debts will be deducted from the deceased’s estate; there are some instances such as inheriting a mortgaged house, where the heir has to pay the debt.
  • Unknown to many, it is not compulsory for an individual to accept a bequest left for them as per a will, especially if it is not beneficial.

The death of a loved one is a painful experience. Coping with the death can be extremely hard and is sometimes even more difficult when creditors come knocking.

It is often up to family members to make crucial financial decisions on behalf of the deceased. These decisions often involve choosing possible ways to settle creditor’s claims of debts owed by the deceased. As a result of ignorance and misinformation, many Kenyans find themselves settling debts that they are not supposed to settle.

Dr Jack Mwimali, dean of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Karen Campus)’s School of Law says: “It is usually upon the lawyer with whom the will was registered to come forward and announce that there is a will stating the intentions the deceased had in accordance to the distribution of his estate after his death. Through this announcement, the creditors become aware and can come forward and make their claims.”

Dr Mwimali explains that the claims should be made against the estate, not against the heirs of the property.

“The first priority is to settle the debt and then the remnants of the estate will be distributed among the heirs.”

There are different natures of debts, including mortgage, medical bills, student loan, credit card debts and even burial expenses. The law stipulates which debts get priority in clearance.

“In most cases, the priority debts are the medical bills and anything owned to the government such as tax arrears ,” says Dr Mwimali.

“When the priority debts are paid, consideration is given to whether any of the remaining debts are of a secured creditor, and they are settled next. After that it comes down to the normal channel of debts where people will make their claims against the estate. These are usually the unofficial debts among colleagues and friends.”

MORTGAGED HOUSE

According to Dr Mwimali, it is important to note that while payment of most debts will be deducted from the deceased’s estate; there are some instances such as inheriting a mortgaged house, where the heir has to pay the debt.

Unknown to many, it is not compulsory for an individual to accept a bequest left for them as per a will, especially if it is not beneficial.

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