Do you want to know about Ethiopian law of wills? If so, we advise you to read the following manual. This manual gives you a clear picture about what will means as per Ethiopian law, types of wills, the time of lapse of a will and who has the burden of proof on the existence of a will, according to the Ethiopian law of will.

Article 857 and the following of the Ethiopian Civil Code give a very important detail about wills.  According to these articles will is defined as an act which is strictly personal to the deceased. Any agreement made by the deceased with another person to make modify or revoke a will on his behalf shall be of no effect. In addition to this it shall be of no effect where it has been made by the testator under the influence of violence (or in the absence of the free consent). The law prohibits joint wills.  To put it in other words several persons can not make their will by one and same instrument. Such kind of mistake will result in making the instrument void. A testamentary will shall be of no effect where if it is not sufficiently clear, the beneficiary or its object or if its object is contrary to the law or morality or the provisions of the will can not be enforced. According to Article 880 of the Ethiopian Civil Code there are three kinds of wills. These are the following.

  • Public wills
  • Holograph wills
  • Oral wills

Illegal and impossible wills are useless and nullified. The Code is specific about this under articles 865 to 872.

 

 

Public wills

A Public will shall be written by the testator himself or by any person under the diction of the testator.  Unless it is read to the testator and four witnesses and mention of the fulfillment of the formality and of its date is made therein, this kind of will shall have no effect.  Here the testator and the witnesses are expected to sign the will immediately or affix their thumb mark.  Other wise it shall have no effect.

So in this kind of will the following requirements are required to be fulfilled for the validity of the instrument.  The requirements are as follows.

  1. A public will shall be written by the testator himself or by any person under the dictation of the testator,
  2. It shall be read in the presence of the testator and of four witnesses,
  3. The will shall mention of the fulfillment of this formality,
  4. The date when the will is made.
  5. There must be 4 witnesses.
  6. The testator and the witnesses shall immediately sign the will or affix their thumb mark thereon.
  7. Any other requirements of consent in accordance with law of contracts.

 

If one or more of the above requirements is missed, the will shall not have legal effect. The following are kinds of will.

Holograph wills

Here also the testator is expected to write this will. i.e. holograph will shall be of no effect unless it is wholly written by the testator himself.  In addition to this the will is required to explicitly state the fact that this instrument is a will.  Further there is a legal requirement that each of the leaves which make it up is dated and signed by the testator.   Further as per Article 903 of the Ethiopian Civil Code a holograph will shall lapse, where it is not deposited with a notary or in a court registry with in seven years of the date of its preparation and signing.

 

So in this kind of will the following requirements are required to be fulfilled for the validity of the instrument.  The requirements are as follows.

  1. The will shall be written by the testator himself.
  2. In an explicit manner it says that it is a will.
  3. The testator shall sign on each of the leaves.
  4. Each of the leaves shall be dated.
  5. It has to be deposited with a notary or in a court registry with in seven years after it has been made.
  6. Any other requirements of consent in accordance with law of contracts.

If one or more of the above requirements is missed, the will shall not have legal effect.

 

Oral wills

An oral will is a will which is made by a person who believes his death is imminent declares verbally the dispositions of his last will to two witnesses. According to this kind of will a testator may only give directives regarding his funeral, dispositions for particular legacies to the amount which may not exceed five hundred Ethiopian birr. Further the testator can make provisions regarding the guardian or the tutor of his minor children.

In accordance with Article 902 of the civil code this type of will shall lapse where the testator is still alive three months (3) after it has been made.

 

So in this kind of will the following requirements are required to be fulfilled for the validity of the instrument.  The requirements are as follows.

 

  1. There must be 2 witnesses.
  2. The testator expected to give directives regarding his funeral, make disposition for particular legacies the amount of each of which may not exceed five hundred birr and make provisions regarding the guardian or tutor of his minor children. Nothing other than that.
  3. The will lapse three months after it has been made, where the testator is still alive on such day.
  4. Any other requirements of consent in accordance with law of contracts.

If one or more of the above requirements is missed, the will shall not have legal effect.

Wills shall be interpreted by a court. A court also plays a major role in the execution of a will.

Proof of a will

As per Article 896 of the Ethiopian Civil Code whosoever claims rights under a will shall prove the existence and the contents of such will.

 

The testator may revoke the will where he expressly declares in the forms required for the validity of the wills that he revoked his will. It shall also be revoked partially where the testator in the same form makes a disposition which can not be executed together with claims of the will.

For any comment or sugestion or request for clarification contact fikadu@ethiopianlaw.com

Any pertinent information on the subject can be available from an Ethiopian Real Estate lawyer Ethiopian Family Lawyer, Ethiopian Succession Lawyer, Ethiopian Inheritance Lawyer, Ethiopian Estate Planning Lawyer, Ethiopian Financial and Tax Planning Lawyer.