The right to ownership of property terminates upon death. Making a will enables a person to control how their property will be distributed after they die. A will is therefore a legal document that expresses the wishes of a testator (a person who makes a will) regarding the distribution of their property after death. The Wills Act [Chapter 6:06] regulates the writing of wills in Zimbabwe.
Section 2 of the Wills Act defines a will as including an oral will, a codicil and any testamentary writing but does not include a document evidencing an ante nuptial contact or other transaction of a contractual nature. Simply, a will is a document which shows the testator’s wishes on how their estate will be distributed after they die. For the document to be valid and regarded as a will, it should be accepted by the Master of High Court.
In accepting a document as a will the Master of High Court will consider whether or not the document complies with the formalities for will writing as set out in section 8(1) of the Wills Act. These formalities are as follows;
- a will should be in writing
- a will should be signed by the testator
- a will should be attested to by two or more witnesses in the presence of the testator
A document that does not comply with these formalities may not be accepted as a will.
Any person who is above the age of 16 (sixteen) can write a will unless at the time of making the will they are mentally incapable of appreciating the nature of their act as provided for in section 4 of the Act.