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ABA Journal

No Will, But a Way: Law Prof and Students Launch African Probate & Policy Initiative


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.

Click here to read the rest of “No Will, But a Way,” from the November issue of the ABA Journal.

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