African Probate & Prolicy Initiative at U Miami School of Law

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The ABA Journal reported here on the University of Miami School of Law’s new African Probate & Policy Initiative.  Here’s an excerpt:

If a Tanzanian man dies without a will, his property goes to his family of origin. If he was married, his widow often receives nothing from the estate. In fact, a Tanzanian woman is more likely to receive property if she divorces than if her husband dies intestate.

Gretchen Bellamy, director of international public interest programs at the University of Miami School of Law, saw this disparity as a profound human rights problem. So the former Peace Corps volunteer launched the African Probate & Policy Initiative and took four law students to Tanzania this summer to draft wills for marginalized populations there.

Bellamy and her crew partnered with the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association to help navigate the country’s highly complex legal system, which combines elements of common law, customary law and Shariah. Not surprisingly, they encountered skepticism from many Tanzanians because some in that culture believe that writing a will is “calling your death.” Since even well-educated Tanzanian women often aren’t listed on car leases or property deeds, Bellamy quickly determined that both men and women needed educating about the importance of wills.

After three weeks of class time in Miami, Bellamy and the students made their way through the cities of Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Zanzibar over a four-week period during which they educated couples and wrote wills. Her initial goal was to have each student draft a will, but together they logged more than 300 pro bono hours drafting 103 wills. “It’s a wonderful success story,” Bellamy says. “I realized I’m on to something.”

The full story is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

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