Devolution of rights and interests in property are purely a question of law and accordingly the same is determined by operation of law.  The appropriate term to be employed in reference to issues related to devolution of rights and interests is transmissions which refer to the process of passing of such rights and interests in property from one person to another as by law prescribed.

Any form that property can take can be the subject of transmissions whether it is land, shares in a company provided that there is an interest or a right that one is entitled to the same can be devolved.  Ways through which such devolution can occur are transmissions manifest, or can manifest itself through a number of forms
Inter vivos transfer i.e. transfers made in the lifetime of the person who owns the property.  These can occur wherever somebody purchases something at which point they are entitled to have the rights in that property pass to them; Property in the form of gifts can be the subject of a transfer as well.

By operation of rules of prescriptions.  This refers to instances when we have the law of limitation extinguishing somebody’s right in land and at the same time giving somebody rights through adverse possession.

Upon the demise of the proprietor or owner of a property an occasion will present itself for the purposes of dealing with his property and how they are to be shared and managed. This can be said of both testate and intestate succession.  The questions as to who is entitled to hold the property or money or benefit from the Estate of the deceased person becomes one that is purely governed by law.

Insolvency whereby a company or a legal entity runs into problems probably through bad management or lack thereof such that it cannot meet its day to day financial obligations in which case there would arise ground to appoint either a receiver or a liquidator to manage the affairs of such an entity an effect of which is to vest all property belonging to such an entity in the person so appointed.  Bankruptcy would present a similar scenario i.e. individuals who have been adjudged bankrupt.  Compulsory acquisition can also lead to rights and interests in property passing or changing hands.

In all these situations, the common denominator is that the proprietor or the persons entitled to rights and interests in questions suffer from some legal disabilities or are the subject of some disability by reason of which they cannot continue enjoying or holding and exercising the powers that are consistent with their fact of ownership of the property concerned.  When that is the case, due to such disability the rights and interests concerned would have to pass in accordance with the law.
On the basis of such disability the rights and interests concerned will devolve from one person to another by operation of law.

Examples of the applicable statutes which regulate those instances are the RLA Cap 300 the RTA, GLA, the Companies Act Cap 486, the Bankruptcy Act Cap 53, the Limitation of Actions Act Cap 22 the Law of Succession Act Cap 160 is relevant as well as the 1968 Compulsory Land Acquisition Act.  All those pieces of legislation offer good examples of regulation under which those instances would fall.  The Companies Act is relevant in matters involving insolvency of companies, the others are all relevant and provide good examples of what would apply.  The Limitation of Actions is relevant to issues of adverse ownership etc.

The law of succession Act and some provisions in the RTA would be relevant when somebody dies. Under the provisions of the RTA and GLA it is the position that upon the death of a registered proprietor his personal representatives become as a matter of law entitled to be registered as proprietors of such assets as may form part of the Estate of the deceased person and that registration is achieved by endorsing the names of such representatives against the title or the title of the property after the personal representatives have met the necessary requirements to prove their status as provided for under Cap 160.  Cap 160 requires that personal representatives must take out probate or letters of Administration to empower them to step onto the shoes of the deceased person and assume the powers that such a deceased person would have otherwise had in dealing with all matters relating to this property.  It is on the strength of probate which is talked about where there is a Will and the Court process has enabled you to prove the Will or letters of administration where there is no Will left and you follow the procedure prescribed under Cap 160.

Section 52 of the RTA is clear that a personal representative that has been duly approved by the court is deemed under Section 52 of the RTA to be the proprietor of the lands or part thereof which has remained undisposed as at the time of the registered owner’s demise.  Any land which had remained in his hands up to the time of his death passes to the personal representative.

Section 54 requires that personal representatives should own such property according to the dictates of equity and good conscience and are subject to any trust which may exist in relation to that property which the proprietor would have held such property would be equally binding and for purposes of dealing in such property the personal reps are deemed to be possessed of all powers or rights which enable them to absolutely deal in such property as if they were the owner of the same.  In other words there is no distinguishing between what the deceased would have done on one hand and what the representatives will do.

Most of those representatives would not be the sole beneficiaries and they may not even be beneficiaries of the Estate.  The legal position that is involved in the passing of these rights and interests is that in the first instance it would help them administer any part of the Estate to those who are beneficiaries.  This could be persons other than personal reps or where the reps are themselves beneficiaries but the purpose is to temporary vest the rights on personal reps before they are passed to the beneficiaries under the Will or those who can approve the entitlement.

There are statutory forms that must be used when a personal rep intends to transfer the rights to the beneficiaries. Under the RLA you must execute a form known as the RL17 and the process is completed by registration. If a personal rep is also a beneficiary he must use Form RL1 or must execute a transfer in his favour suing RL1 whenever he intends to transfer the property to himself.  The fact that the personal rep has proved his status and gotten the endorsement of the court precludes the involvement of any other players being involved in the management of the Estate in question.  Only the Executor and Administrator who are entitled to deal in such property to the exclusion of anybody else including the beneficiaries.  The Rider is that they occupy a position of Trust the interests that must at all times remain paramount is that of the individuals or persons entitled to a share of the Estate.  Where the proprietor of the property dies without a Will, an administrator must be appointed thro the stipulated process and must be confirmed as such and must be issued with a Grant of Letters of Administrations in line with S. 70 of the Succession Act Cap 160.  It is on the strength of this that the administrator would be entitled to deal with the property forming part of the Estate.

There is a problem that arises in situations of co-ownership, i.e. joint tenants and tenants in common both of which are forms of co-ownership. In line with requirements under Section 118 of the RLA if one of the two or more joint proprietors dies, the position is that the name of the person or persons who have so perished have to be deleted from the register because the applicable principle under joint tenancy is that there is a right of survivorship meaning that the interests of the deceased would pass to the remaining proprietors and would not pass to the personal reps and consequently to the issues of such a proprietors.  This position contrasts sharply with what is involved under tenancy in common because where property is held in common the position is that the interest of each of the tenants can be severed so that where one of the tenants dies, the interests and rights do not pass to the other tenants instead it passes and vests in the beneficiaries of such a tenant.  In other words there is no right of survivorship under the GLA and RTA it is a requirement that the certificate of death of the deceased, proprietor must be registered against the title of any property previously held by such a proprietor if all the requirements that bring into place the personal representatives be they executors or administrators if all the requirements are complied with, it sets the stage for property to devolve to the beneficiaries.


Whereas the first one involves corporate entities bankruptcy is purely concerned with individuals. The proprietors in this instance are equally placed in the sense that they are more or less in their inability to meet their financial obligations and for the individual the inability to pay up on what is expected of them or what they owe.  Both the Companies and the Bankruptcy Act provide the mechanisms for dealing with those situations.  A company can be placed under receivership in which case the liquidator or official receiver whichever is the case would be entitled to deal with the company’s property. The owners of the company would be effectively disenfranchised in terms of any powers that they may have over the company and its affairs.  There are two stages and a distinction to be drawn between receivership and liquidation.   A company that still has hope a good management can still turn it around would expect receivership appointed by the debenture holders or the court to manage the assets of the company and pay any outstanding debts and give back the company to the owner if this is successful.  A receiver can be bought out if the company can raise finance to regain control.  Liquidation is where there is intention to wind up and there is no likelihood that the company will turnaround no matter how long so it is more draconian than receivership but in each case you have rights and interests passing to somebody else other than the owners of the company.  A person who is adjudged bankrupt also suffers disabilities from the amount of the money one can have on them and a trustee is appointed to manage ones affairs and if the court order is still in place you remain an undischarged bankrupt until you are discharged from such an order.


Compulsory Acquisition Act of 1968 is part of the doctrine of eminent domain and is evoked by the Public purpose test. That the acquisition must not be for satisfying private interests and the public purpose test is the basis for acquisition.  The other fundamental requirement such as making prompt payments has to follow.  The rights and interests devolve from private to public domain in that instance.


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