by Lucas Spaeth, ABM consulting attorney


When a Ugandan who has never lived outside of Uganda dies, inheritance issues are relatively simple. Ugandan law dictates that succession is controlled by his or her will; or, if none, then by the law of intestate succession.  However, complicated jurisdictional issues can arise when the decedent owned property or did business in several different countries, or when it is unclear which country he considered to be his “home.” This article will attempt to clarify some of these issues.


What is Domicile?


A domicile is the jurisdiction where a person has their “fixed habitation.” This would be a simple consideration, except for the fact that many people in the modern world live transient lives, and do not always have a “fixed habitation.” Therefore, each country has a test for deciding domicile. A person can only have one domicile. A person retains their place of domicile until a new one is established. For example, imagine a woman was born and raised in Switzerland, but she leaves the country and travels the world for fifty years, never settling in one place for long. She eventually dies in Uganda. What is her domicile at her death? The answer is Switzerland. Disregard the fact that she may not have set foot in Switzerland for fifty years; until a person obtains a new domicile, they retain their old one.

In Uganda, a person is born with the domicile of his or her father. However, if they were born to unmarried parents, they have the domicile of their mother. A married woman has the domicile of her husband. A foreigner who moves to Uganda only acquires a Ugandan domicile if he “takes up his fixed habitation” in Uganda. This does not include people who only come to Uganda just to work, regardless of how long they stay. There must be evidence that they intend Uganda to be their fixed residence.

Ugandan succession law states that a foreigner may be considered to have Ugandan domicile if they have their ordinary residence in Uganda for at least two years AND they have a surviving spouse or child who is ordinarily resident in Uganda at the time of death. This is a minimum test of domicile, and there are other factors to be considered as well.

Importance of Informed Choices when Making a Will in Uganda
by Lucas Spaeth, ABM consulting attorney
Ugandan succession law regarding wills is, for the most part, straightforward and simple. There are, however, several unforeseeable aspects of Ugandan succession law that most people would find surprising. Here are a few of them:

  • It is impossible to disinherit dependent relatives under Ugandan succession law. relatives include your spouse, minor children, and any adult children, parents or grandparents who are completely dependent on you. Even if you explicitly disinherit them from your will, the Court has power to order your executor to provide for their maintenance out of the assets of your estate, even at the expense of your other bequests.
  • Your existing will is automatically revoked when you get married. This means that if you created a will before you got married, you better write another one after your wedding. 
  • A person who signs the will as a witness to it cannot then receive anything from the will. If anything is bequeathed to them in the will, they lose their right to it.
  • If spouses are separated at the time one of them dies the survivor is not entitled to his or her share of the intestate estate.
  • Illegitimate children are only entitled to a share in an intestate estate if the father recognizes and treats the child as his own.
  • If a person making a will has a living relative which is a living nephew or niece or closer, then they cannot make a bequest to a religious or charitable cause; unless they had executed the will a year before death and deposited the will in the public will depository.
These are just a few of the unforeseeable aspects of Ugandan succession law. What it means for property-owning Ugandans is that they should take special care in planning their estate and making their wills. Succession of property after death is always a messy business, but a little advance planning can keep it neat and tidy.