База данных по гендерной проблематике и правам на землю

Liberia

Наследование/ правовые механизмы

 

Civil law regime

 

The Decedents Estates Law, 1973

§ 3.4. Division among relatives of equal and different degrees.

If the distributees entitled to share in an estate under the provisions of section 3.2 are all of equal degree of kinship to the decedent, they shall take equal shares. If they are of unequal degree, their respective shares shall be determined in the following manner:

The part of the estate which is to be distributed to any such distributees shall be divided into as many equal shares as there shall be persons in the nearest degree of consanguinity living and taking shares therein and persons in that degree who have predeceased the decedent and who have left issue surviving who are to receive shares. One equal share shall be distributed to each such living person in the nearest degree. The remaining part of the estate to be distributed among such distributees shall then be divided into as many equal shares as there are distributees in the nearest degree of consanguinity living and taking shares therein (exclusive of those whose shares have already been determined) and persons in the same degree who have predeceased the decedent and who have left issue surviving who are to receive shares. The living persons of such class shall receive equal shares in the estate. The balance of the estate to be distributed shall be divided according to the same process until the entire estate shall have been distributed.

§ 3.5. Inheritance by, from and through illegitimate children.

An illegitimate child and his issue shall inherit under the provisions of section 3.2 from his mother and from her lineal and collateral relatives, and his mother and her lineal and collateral relatives shall inherit from such child and his issue as if he were legitimate. An illegitimate child and his issue shall inherit under the provisions of section 3.2 from his father and from the lineal and collateral relatives of the father, and the father and his lineal and collateral relatives shall inherit from such child and his issue as if he were legitimate under any of the following conditions:

(a) If the child is adopted by his father; or

(b) If the father acknowledges his paternity in writing before a justice of the peace or notary public and such acknowledgment is probated and registered; or

(c) If the parents marry subsequent to the birth; or

(d) If the child has been legitimated under the provisions of the Domestic Relations Law; or

(e) If the paternity of the child has been adjudicated by a court of appropriate jurisdiction.

Such child shall be treated as if he were the legitimate child of his mother, and, if any of the conditions enumerated in this section is present, as the legitimate child of his father, for the purpose also of receiving benefits under sections 4.3 and 4.4.

§ 4.1. Rights of surviving spouse.

1. Constitutional right of election by widows. The constitutional right of a widow to one-third of her deceased husband's real estate during her natural life and to hold one-third of his personal estate in her own right subject to alienation by her, by devise or otherwise, is hereby preserved. A widow has the personal right to elect to take such share in lieu of any testamentary disposition or distribution on intestacy provided for her. 
2. Statutory right of election by widowers. A widower shall be entitled to one-third of his deceased wife's real estate during his natural life and to one-third of her personal estate, which he shall hold in his own right subject to alienation by him by devise or otherwise. He has the personal right to elect to take such share in lieu of any testamentary disposition or distribution on intestacy provided for him. 

§ 4.3. Exempt personal property for spouse and children.

The surviving spouse, or if there is no spouse, then any child or children, shall be entitled absolutely to such personal property of the estate as he or they may select not exceeding in the aggregate $500, any portion or all of which may be taken in money; provided, that if the decedent has died testate, an article which has been made the subject of a specific bequest to another person shall not be applied in satisfaction of a claim by a spouse or child under this section unless other assets of the estate do not exceed $500. The property selected shall belong to the spouse, if any, otherwise to the children in equal shares. At any time after the return of the inventory the court upon application shall set apart the selected property to the persons entitled thereto. Such property shall not be subject to administration and shall be exempt from all claims against the estate except any lien thereon at the time of the decedent's death, taxes, claims for the costs of administration and reasonable funeral expenses.

§ 4.4. Temporary use of dwelling house by surviving spouse and/or minor children pending settlement of estate.

If the estate of a decedent comprises an interest in fee simple in a dwelling house in which the surviving spouse and/or minor children were resident at the time of decedent's death, such spouse and/or minor children may continue to occupy such dwelling house and make use of the furnishings, household goods and provisions therein and crops to the extent necessary for family use without liability for payment of rent or other charges until the expiration of seven months after the issuance of letters to the personal representative.

 

Customary Law regime

 

The Equal Rights of the Customary Marriage Law of 1998

- Section 3.2: Widow’s Dower Rights

Upon the husband’s death, the widow or multiple widows shall be entitled to only one-third (1/3) of their late husband’s property; the balance two thirds (2/3) of the decedent’s property shall descend to his children, if any, or to his collateral heirs according to the Decedents Estates Law.

- Section 3.3: Widow’s Liberty Not Restricted After Husband’s Death

After the death or burial of her/their husband, the customary widow or multiple shall be at liberty either to remain on the premises of her/their late husband to administer said estate, or she/they may take another husband of her/their choice and shall vacate the premises of the late husband in as much the new marriage entered automatically reverse said rights and same property return to the heirs or children of the late husband.

- Section 3.5: Widow to Administer Deceased Husband’s Estate

Widow or multiple widows collectively, children or collateral heirs, shall have the unrestricted right to petition the Probate Court in their jurisdiction for Letters of Administration to administer the property of said decedent, and which right shall not be denied by Probate Court within the Republic. Any denial of this right shall entitle the aggrieved party to appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia.

- Section 1(f) defines “Letters of Administration” as the authority given by the Probate Court to a tribal widow/widows, children of tribal marriage, or next of kin to take care of, control the property of the deceased which he left at the time of his death.

 

The Decedents Estates Law, 1973

§ 3.1. Decedents Estates Law Applicable to Customary Marriage.

The provision as contained in Title 8 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised of 1972, known as the New Decedents Estates Law, including a Probate Court Procedure Code, are hereby incorporated as if quoted verbatim and which shall equally apply to alt native customary marriages immediately after the passage of this Act.

§ 3.2. Widow's Dower Rights.

Upon the husband's death, the widow or multiple widows shall be entitled to only one-third (1/3) of the late husband's property; the balance two-thirds (2/3) of the decedent's property shall descent to his children, if any, or to his collateral heirs according to the Decedents Estates Law.

§ 3.3. Widow's Liberty Not Restricted After Husband's Death.

After the death or burial of her/their husband, the customary widow or multiple widows shall be at liberty either to remain on the premises of her/their late husband to administer said estate, or she/they may take another husband of her/their choice and shall vacate the premises of the husband in as much as the new marriage entered automatically reverses said rights and same property returned to the heirs or children of the late husband.

§ 3.4. Compulsory Marriage of Widow of Deceased Husband's Kin Unlawful.

(a) No family member of the deceased husband shall compel the widow or widows to remain within the family or marry a kin of her/their late husband.

(b) Any family member who shall compel a widow to marry one of her husband's relatives against her will in order for said widow to be able to subsist or earn a livelihood has committed a felony of the first degree and, upon conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction, shall be fined amount of not less than L$500.00 nor more than L$1,000.00.

§ 3.5. Widow to Administer Deceased Husband's Estate.

A widow or multiple widows collectively, children or collateral heirs shall have the unrestricted right to petition the probate court in their jurisdiction for Letters of Administration to administer the property of said decedent, and which right shall not be denied by probate court within the Republic. Any denial of this right shall en-title the aggrieved party to appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia.

§ 3.6. Right of Tribal Inhabitants to Make Last Will and Testament.

Every male and female of legal age under customary or tribal law shall have the right to make his/her Last Will and Testament, describing how his/her property is to be distributed after his/her death.

 

Discrepancies between civil and customary regimes

The surviving spouse is treated differently in a civil marriage and in a customary marriage. In civil law the surviving spouse is entitled to one-half of her deceased husband’s property for her lifetime, while a surviving spouse in a customary marriage is entitled to one-third of her deceased husband’s property only until she remarries. Importantly, a woman in a customary marriage must get consent from her husband before she can enter a contract or acquires property from a third party, while a woman in a civil marriage does not. (7)

 

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