A row has emerged among family members of the late appellate judge James Nyarangi over the control of his multi-million-shilling estate.
Justice Nyarangi died on May 4, 1991. His widow Margaret and daughter Beckie were later handed his entire estate in trust for son Anthony who was then a minor.
But Mrs Nyarangi, who together with her daughter Beckie were appointed joint administrators of the vast estate, died on October 25, 2008.
Her death led a section of the judge’s family to file a suit in the High Court alleging they were the legitimate executors of the widow’s will, which she had made on February 15, 2008.
In their petition, they listed almost all the property of Justice Nyarangi, of which the widow and Beckie were the original administrators. They argued that it should not form part of the late judge’s estate.
At the centre of the succession dispute is the inheritance of the judge’s assets, including houses in Nairobi’s affluent Lavington and Karen suburbs and prime plots in Woodley Estate, Rongai, Eastleigh, Nakuru, Kisii and Kericho.
In his native Kisii County, the judge had invested heavily in agricultural land and owned prime residential plots.
The judge had invested in shares with various companies. His pension and death gratuity from the Judiciary form part of his estate. Estimates value his investments at Sh800 million.
Five months after Margaret’s death, her brother-in-law Mr Ratemo Nyarangi, and another family member Mr Jepther Opande moved to court seeking to execute her will.
From the entire estate, the petitioners, allegedly acting at the behest of the widow, had omitted only the pension and death gratuity from their list, but they did include three residential plots in Nakuru and Kisii that were not in the widow’s original will.
After perusing the lists of property owned by Justice Nyarangi and that of the widow, High Court Judge William Musyoka ruled that they were substantially the same assets.
“The list of Margaret Moragwa Nyarangi is a replica of the list of the estate of her husband, except for a few items,” he said.
He noted that the same property the widow purported to distribute to third parties through her purported will was the same as that she was given to hold.
Justice Musyoka explained in his ruling of June 23 that when the widow was made the administrator of her husband’s estate in 1999, this simply created a trust over the estate to the extent that the assets were to be distributed later among the heirs.
“It was not her property to dispose of as she wished. She had no authority to will away the assets to third parties. And she could not purport to isolate the assets that did not belong to her,” ruled the judge.
He said that the power the widow had over the estate ended upon her death.
Justice Musyoka stated that the assets belonging to Justice Nyarangi did not form part of the estate of his late wife and ordered the same to be removed from the schedule of her assets.
Accordingly, the judge ordered the executors of the widow’s will, Mr Ratemo and Mr Opande, to surrender the property titles, letters of allotment, share certificates, log books, bank account records, passbooks and other documents related to the estate to Beckie and Anthony.
After he ruled that the two siblings were the administrators and ultimate beneficiaries of their father’s estate, the judge consequently gave the purported executors 30 days from June 23 to surrender the documents and return for mention of the case to confirm compliance.