What will happen to your assets when you die? Do you want to have a say on that? If your answer is YES, then welcome to Inheritance Planning.

What you leave behind upon your death constitutes your estates. Cars, money, commercial or residential properties, company shares, etc. Even debts owed to you by other people form part of your estate.

Why should you bother about how your estate is distributed? Marriages in Zimbabwe are OUT of community of property. You don’t own what your wife/husband owns! Planning allows you to protect your spouse’s interests. Children, including those born out of wedlock, need to be catered for. Some people have other dependents at heart, e.g. parents, disabled relatives. Some people have other special interests, e.g. animal welfare (SPCA), philanthropy, sport, etc. Planning allows catering for such interests. Generational wealth preservation is another big reason for estate planning.

The tools available for inheritance planning include the following.


We dealt with wills in a previous installment. A will gives instructions on how someone’s estate must be distributed.


A trust is an arrangement between one person (the Settlor or Founder) and another person, the Trustee, whereby the Trustee holds legal title to property for the benefit of another, the beneficiary.  A trust can be express or constructive/resulting. But for purposes of estate planning, we concern ourselves with the written express trust. It is in the form of a Deed of Trust that is prepared by a Notary Public and registered with the Registrar of Deeds.  The property settled in the trust ceases to be owned by the settlor and becomes the property of the trustee. However, the fruits of the property accrue to the beneficiary.

A trust thus creates two forms of ownership in the same property. Legal ownership is what the trustee has, while the beneficiary has Equitable ownership. The trustee deals with the property solely in the interests of the beneficiary.


A company is person created by law. It is a juristic person separate from its owners. Once registered, a company has full capacity to own assets, sue and be sued, and do all things that a person of full legal capacity can do, in its own name.

In the context of estate planning, assets owned by the company do not belong to the owners of the company. What the owners “own” are their shares in the company, not the individual assets in the company. Estate beneficiaries inherit the shares, not the assets in the company.


This is a very simple and straightforward method of estate planning whereby the person, during his lifetime, donates whatever assets he wants to whomsoever he wants. Effectively, the donor would have distributed his estate before his death!


With this method, all one has to do is to die! The estate is handled as an intestate estate, which is an estate where the deceased did not leave a WILL. In this regard, the estate devolves on the surviving spouse and children of the deceased, and if there are no such people, on the parents and siblings of the deceased, etc.

All these methods can work together to achieve a more tailor-made distribution of one’s wealth.

Death is a sure thing to happen. What is not known is the timing thereof. Plan your estates, if you want them to be distributed in a particular manner upon your death.  Do it now. Don’t wait for a later date.

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