Inside the new Succession law

Parliament on Tuesday, 30 April 2021 passed a  Bill for Act entitled, “The Succession Amendment Act, 2021” putting to rest months of intense lobbying by civil society and women rights activists who strongly advocated for the amendments.

Two Bills on the same subject matter were presented to the House, one a Private Members’ Bill by MP Rosette Kajungu Mutambi (NRM, Mbarara) in 2018 and another slotted in on behalf of government by Attorney General, William Byaruhanga.

The committee ultimately processed both Bills, merging them into one and enacting them with minor changes.

An amendment of Section 2 of the principal Act now outlaws terms ‘illegitimate child’ to replace it with ‘a child produced outside wed lock’, reasoning that the term illegitimate is discriminatory, following a court decision in the case of Law Advocacy for Women in Uganda v Attorney General, Constitutional Petitions No. l3/05 and 05/06.

The most contentious clauses came to the distribution of the properties of an intestate, a family law term to denote a deceased person who dies without a will.

Section 27 of the Act, which previously indicated the distribution of the property of only a male intestate, was declared null and void in the case of Advocacy for Women in Uganda, and the new amendment now covers both male and female intestates.

The new section 27 now maintains the traditional heir to a deceased person, except that this is a ceremonial role that does not entitle the heir to succession.

Still under section 27, 20 per cent of the property of an intestate is reserved to cater for younger, school-going children and does not form part of the property available for distribution to the different heirs.

Muslims, however, are exempted from section 27, since the faith has its own Quranic method of wealth distribution upon death of an intestate.

The Legislators also rejected a proposal in the 2018 Bill to include cohabiting spouses on the list of beneficiaries from the estate of an intestate.

Letters of administration granted by court will now be valid for three and not two years as was the case in the previous legislation, if assented to by the President.

A surviving spouse will now be entitled to 50 per cent of the estates of a deceased intestate, up from the previous 15 per cent.

Lineal descendants will now share 41 per cent, down from 75 per cent and the dependents will part with the remainder nine per cent.

The residential property of an intestate, as long as the living spouse or child of an intestate is in occupancy, will not affect the percentage of their share on the property of the intestate.

Leading women activists, including Uganda Law Society President, Pheona Wall, welcomed the legislation as timely.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango, congratulated Parliament and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on the enactment of the Bill.