Unmarried couples who cohabit, otherwise known locally as ‘Come We Stay’ partners, will not be entitled to inherit the property of their spouse in the event of their death.
This is according to the Succession Amendment Bill, 2019 sponsored by Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma.
In passing the Bill, MPs rejected an amendment that would have allowed a cohabiting spouse to inherit the property of their significant other following death.
Kaluma had sought to introduce an amendment that would have allowed couples who have cohabitated for at least three years before the death of one partner to inherit the properties of their partner.
Unsurprisingly, male lawmakers outrightly rejected the emendation, with the Bill seen as one way MPs are seeking to block mistresses from claiming their family estates upon their death.
The Bill stipulates that only a spouse as defined under the Marriage Act, 2014 qualifies for inheritance. This is despite cohabitation being recognised under the Marriage Act as an arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage.
Had the MPs accepted Kaluma’s proposal, ‘come we stay’ couples who haven’t formalized their union but were introduced to both families as living as husband and wife would have been allowed to inherit the properties of the deceased.
“The Bill was passed in the most rigid form. The House rejected my additional amendments, which had sought to create room for persons in legitimate cohabitation to inherit property,” Kaluma regretted.
The lawmakers argued that if a person is serious in any union, that person should be properly married before being allowed to inherit the properties of their deceased partner.
“I oppose these amendments. If you want to marry, please marry and let people know, otherwise your dependents will suffer while courts take forever to settle disputes on how to share your properties,” Minority Leader John Mbadi argued.
Nominated MP David Sankok added: “If you love someone, go to the Attorney-General’s chamber and get a marriage certificate and if you are loved, be formally married.
“If you are not formally married, then you are not needed and if someone doesn’t need you while alive, then even in death he doesn’t want you, so keep off his properties.”
Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo on her part regretted that the House missed the opportunity to pass an important amendment. She maintained that cohabitation is a form of marriage legally accepted by the Constitution.
“If you have stayed with a man for three years, then you are not selling mangoes, you are actually married. We have missed an important amendment because of excitement,” she said.
The Succession Amendment Bill, 2019 also limits the dependents entitled to inherit the property of a spouse and who qualifies as a child of the deceased — whether or not maintained by the deceased before death
The list includes the deceased’s parents, grandparents, grandchildren, stepchildren, children that the deceased had taken into his family as his own, brothers and sisters, as well as half-brothers being maintained by the deceased before death.