Ejecting spouses from homes before distribution of properties is illegal

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Mr Karikari-Boakye Yiadom
Mr Karikari-Boakye Yiadom

Mr Karikari-Boakye Yiadom, a private legal practitioner, has cautioned relatives of deceased persons against ejecting surviving spouses and children from their matrimonial home before the distribution of properties.

Mr. Yiadom, who is also a Senior Associate at Excel Legal Consultancy, stated that “a person shall not, before the distribution of the estate of a deceased person, whether testate or intestate, eject a surviving spouse or child from the matrimonial home.”

He said this in a presentation on the topic “Property ownership among spouses: the essence of wills” as part of a bi-monthly online sensitization programme organised by Evolve a nondenominational Christian faith-based women’s group in Tema.

He added that this would apply where the matrimonial home was the self-acquired property of the deceased or where the matrimonial home was rented property, indicating that unless the ejection was pursuant to a court order,

He explained that in the case where the matrimonial home was the family house of the deceased or public property, unless a period of six months and three months, respectively, had expired from the date of the death of the deceased, the spouse or children could not be ejected.

The legal practitioner defined the matrimonial home as the house or premises occupied by the deceased and the surviving spouse, or the deceased and a surviving child, or all of them, at the time of the deceased’s death.

He further said any other self-acquired house of the deceased occupied by the surviving spouse, child, or both at the time of the deceased’s death qualified as a matrimonial home.

Touching on the distribution of properties in accordance with the deceased’s will, he stated that generally, only persons mentioned in the provisions of a will shall benefit under the will.

He added, however, that an exception to this general rule was a reasonable provision to a spouse under Article 22 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 13 of the Wills Act (Act 360) to a spouse, a parent, or a child under 18 years.

He explained that the conditions must be that the person was dependent on the testator during his lifetime and that the testator in his lifetime did not make any reasonable provisions for that person.

Mr Yiadom said both males and females could declare how their affairs could be managed when they die, adding that any person aged 18 and above and of sound mind could make a will in writing.

He said such a person must be capable of understanding the nature or effect of a will and therefore not suffer from insanity or infirmity of mind.

He stressed that the will must dispose of the properties of the testator or what he would be entitled to at the time of his death or to which he might be entitled after death, excluding family property as it was not self-acquired.

A will, he said, shall be valid when it is signed by the testator or some other person at his direction; the signature, he added, shall be made or acknowledged by him in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; “the witnesses shall attest and sign the will in the presence of the testator.”

The legal practitioner said a will might be revoked by physical destruction by the testator or some other person in his presence, by a written declaration of intention to revoke, or by the execution of another will that expressly revokes the previous will.

Mrs Sandra Obeng, founder of Evolve You said the spouses need to talk and discuss the future of their family when they have died and gone; therefore, there is a need to educate people on the importance of writing a will and how it would be administered.

Mrs Obeng said oftentimes people believed it was only men who needed to make a will, an assertion she said needed to be corrected while encouraging women to also put their wishes on how their properties should be distributed into a will.

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