When families experience conflict over inheritances the strength of their familial bonds can suffer, and this can be particularly disastrous in Uzbekistan’s family-centric culture. As part of the nation’s on-going legal reform process, targeted public engagement initiatives have helping citizens resolve succession issues in a more civil and mutually-beneficial way.
To expand Uzbekistan citizens’ understanding of relevant aspects of inheritance law, two comprehensive information resources have been made publicly available. Produced through the Rule of Law project conducted by the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, these publications have specifically helped to demystify the complex and contentious matter of succession rights.
Inheritance law and succession cases have been a persistent part of the total cases addressed by first instance courts in Uzbekistan, with their number increased by 31% from 1,416 cases in 2014 to 1,856 cases in 2017. 75% of resolved cases have persistently been decided in favour of claimants, indicating that citizen’s needs have been persistently addressed through these cases, and consequently this area of law needs to be consistently and clearly explained to greater numbers of the nation’s general public.
The handbook and brochure created by the Rule of Law partnership, entitled ‘Inheritance Law’ and ‘‘Succession rights in Uzbekistan’ respectively, deliver complimentary content. The handbook has clear explanations of legal processes, overviews challenging cases and presents frequently-asked questions. In turn the brochure is shorter and more visual, helping address disputes before they need to go to court. It includes information about creating a last will, the fees required by public notaries, and the methods through which inheritances can be distributed, along with other vital content.
Workshops and events have been instrumental in making these publications broadly accessible across Uzbekistan, held even in isolated communities that lack easy access to legal information online, courts, and legal services.
Along with providing citizens with information, it is hoped that the handbooks will help take pressure off legal facilities and professionals. “In Uzbekistan the courts are overloaded with cases that could be solved at home through improved education on national law,” said Muhayyo Isakhjovaeva, a mahalla (community) leader in the Shayhontakhur district of Tashkent city.“’Inheritance Law’ is a practical handbook that helps to increase the population’s legal awareness and improve public access to justice.”
Why inheritance is a primary concern
A few specific factors can help explain the reasons why succession and inheritance laws are matters of key concern in Uzbekistan.
- Family is everything. The family unit is the centre of Uzbekistan’s social fabric. Traditionally families step in when social services fail or are deficient, and as such they serve as a social safety net. However, when legal problems arise that affect family stability, like those related to divorce, child custody and payments, abuse or inheritance, solutions outside the household may not be necessarily apparent. Publicly-available and accessible information, combined with effective courts, can ensure these sensitive matters are addressed quickly and privately.
- Citizens need to trust the legal system. A recent survey conducted in 2017 showed that public trust in Uzbekistan’s legal system needs improvement. The legal system can be an effective option for families who need fair and impartial perspectives to iron out difficult problems, but only if they are sufficiently trusted. Information transparency, combined with public reform with clear, positive outcomes, can help build this trust.
- Individuals need to understand the law. Few citizens understand the legal system and how it can help them, so providing publicly-accessible tools that explain legal processes is fundamentally important. Our project’s partners are working to improve the transparency of Uzbekistan’s legal system, directly in line with the 2017-2021 Action Strategy for the country’s development.
The optimal outcome of all inheritance conflicts, and other domestic legal disputes, is when parties see that their rights have been respected and that a mutually-beneficial solution has been reached. This success will encourage the further use of court resources, with trust in the legal system multiplying in the communities. The Rule of Law project’s publications, and related education efforts, have helped courts and legal professionals become better servants to Uzbekistan’s citizens.