The High Court on Friday made a ruling that parents have no legal obligation to consult their children in the sale or transfer of inherited property. The ruling follows a petition by two siblings to stop their father from disposing of a piece of land he had inherited.
The court ruled that parents do not automatically hold inherited property in trust for their children. This means a parent is not obliged to consult their children in the transfer or sale of land including its subdivision.
Deciding on the matter, Lady Justice Grace Kemei said the claim of customary trust must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The two siblings had taken the matter to the Murang’a Lands court seeking a declaration to make the sale of land by their father null and void. In addition, they had wanted a court to the registrar of lands requiring cancelation of the title issued to the buyer and a reversion of title to the original owner.
Justice Kemei ruled that the siblings’ right to inherit title to the land can only mature upon the death of their father if he had retained the land. Consequently, the buyer retained exclusive rights over the acquired property.
The judge also ruled out the siblings’ claim that the land was matrimonial property, saying that such a claim could only be made by a spouse and not the children. The siblings’ mother was not interested in pursuing the case.
The siblings had accused their father of conducting a fraud and illegality in selling the ancestral land, and the blamed the buyer for purchasing the property with the knowledge that it was the only piece of land held by their parents.
However the court found that the plaintiff had failed to prove the existence of trust or to establish evidence of ancestral ownership. In the circumstances, the court dismissed the claims as mere allegations.
“Fraud must be pleaded and prove to the required standards which is beyond a balance of probabilities and slightly below the standard required in criminal cases,” said justice Kemei.