Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Grief and greed ÔÇô when families scramble to profit from bereavement

By MPHO KUHLMANN

When Kedibonye Seabo lost her father, her ‘loving’ family suddenly turned into scavangers. When her relatives learnt that her father died intestate they descended on the family home like vultures and took everything they wanted.  It gave her a firsthand look at how greedy family members can take advantage when there isn’t a plan in place.   Even where there is no overt conflict, it seems that nearly every family has some amount of tension brewing just beneath the surface as they address family inheritance issues.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says many Batswana  don’t have a will in place. “We witness inheritance woes every day; it is something that is not going to stop anytime. To some extent, culture used to cover and justify greed. It looks as if people still aren’t getting the message. We are encouraged to have a will in place. The huge benefits of having a will, and the even bigger risks of not having one, should be far more widely known and talked about. People think a will is just for the end of their life, and it is ÔÇô but who knows when that will be? People tend not to think about wills, because they don’t like to think about death. But what most Batswana should think about is the headache and expense they will cause their families if they die without a will in place At best, it will be inconvenient; at worst, it could trigger bitter disputes and lead to some loved ones missing out entirely.”

Wills ÔÇôor their absence are a bone of contention for many families. Most of us have heard stories of families falling out over who gets what when a relative dies. It can create permanent divisions. Death brings out the best and worst in people is a phrase we have all heard far too many times. The number one sources of conflict between a family fighting after a death are belongings and money. Countless families who never imagined there would be conflict over material things are suddenly overwhelmed by disagreement and power struggles. Disagreements over who gets what can lead to brawls between siblings that can scar relationships forever. Many families have wound up bewildered when, after the death of loved one, they find themselves at odds over the person’s material possessions. Families typically don’t express their love through gifts, objects, or money, their values are rarely grounded in materialism in any way. Yet all of a sudden when a death occurs they are arguing over stuff; much of it stuff they hadn’t cared about or wanted until after their loved one died.

Kedibonye Seabo, an accountant at Avani Gaborone Resort & Casino says she experienced inheritance woes first hand. “ When  death occurs especially of someone close to you, the last thing you think about is who is going to get what but there are family members who don’t care about your grief and want it all over so they can sort themselves out. My father was the sole breadwinner in our family; we lived comfortably and lacked nothing. A few properties scattered around the country as well as cars at our disposal for me, my siblings and mother, all that came to an end when death abruptly struck and we suddenly had to fight for what was ours. My father left no will in place and that gave our family members (mostly from his side) the green light to take whatever they wanted. Within a matter of months, everything was gone, the houses, the cars everything. My family and I had to start from scratch. “She says a lot of people still don’t have will in place but we are encouraged to have wills to save us from the fights that follow after death.

Mothibi Gabaake who works at Botswana Unified Revenue Services in Gaborone says wills aren’t as common in African culture. “My father remarried after my mother died. There was only my brother and I, both married with families of our own. He had promised us at the time that his second marriage would not change our inheritance. He had inherited the remnants of our mother’s business. He had a few years of happiness and we accepted his new wife and enjoyed many family occasions together. He unfortunately died last year we found out he changed his will one month beforehand. When we inquired about the will, we received a letter from my father’s solicitor stating that we were not included in the will.”

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