When a founder, a patriarch or matriarch, a creator of the business empire, a path-finder of the wealth that the family will enjoy for generations to come, dies, trouble could be on the horizon if no provision has been made to accommodate that eventuality.
If the patriarch was in a non-organised polygamous setting with children from several wives, the business empire might collapse as there will be jockeying for power and resources, the enmity being fuelled by the disagreeing stakeholders. Even in non-polygamous settings, disagreeing siblings have been known to tear the business apart and go their separate ways.
When Dhirubhai Ambani a rags-to-riches Indian tycoon died, his two sons Mukesh and Anil took over after his death in 2002 and they broke up the company, Reliance going their separate ways. Luckily, their separate arms of the company succeeded and became bigger than the parent ever was. However, closer to home in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe specifically, pre-independence successful business families such as the Mwayera’s, the Mwamuka’s, the Machipisa’s Matambanadzo’s, the Ruredzo’s and so on collapsed not long after the founding father died.
Reasons for the corporate failures are sketchy but what is known for sure is that there had been no documented plans in place for inheritance and business continuity after the founder dies. If you are wealthy and continue to build more wealthy but are truly worried about the financial future of your spouse, parents, children and even siblings after your death, below is what you need to do:
Write a Will
In the absence of a will inheritance laws differ from one country to the other. What is known though, is that, in the absence of a will, your property gets distributed equally among your heirs according to the succession laws. In Zimbabwe, the surviving spouse, in the absence of a will inherits everything. In addition, a woman who has lived with a man for more than five years as his wife but is not married, has a right to make legitimate claims to his estate.
The Importance of Writing a Will
The law does not know that you wanted to leave your valued Persian rugs or collection of art pieces to that second daughter of yours who studied fine art and appreciates all things art. The law would not know that your prized vintage car, which you had refurbished over the years after buying it from a scrap dealer, has to be given to your eldest son because you shared this hobby with The law also does not know that you wanted to have your body donated to the medicine faculty of your local University for research purposes unless you write it down.
Why a Will?
Many people naively believe that writing a will is a morbid idea. The concept of writing a will is certainly not alien to us, but it is surprising just how many of us get around to doing it.
We recently lost a good friend in a car accident. Before the body was even embalmed, the daughters were inquiring where the title deeds of his properties where. They proceeded to take number plates of all the cars that were parked in the drive way and went to the vehicle registration department to find out in whose name the cars were registered. Luckily, this man had written a will and it was at the reading of the will, where they found out for sure the extent of their fathers’ wealth and who had inherited what.
Wills and responsibilities
According to Business Today, “A will does not only distribute wealth; it can also offer responsibilities. Who will take care of your children in absence of you and your spouse? Should they be raised by your brother who is in a financial mess or you want your elder sister to take care of them? One can write a will appointing a trusted person as the guardian of their children when neither of the parents survives. One can also write a will for creating trusts.”
Author: Gloria Ndoro