Editor's note: Saheed Akinola Esq, the NAIJ.com partner blogger, in this latest article, explains 12 reasons every individual should not delay writing their will.
Saheed is a legal practitioner and consultant on farming/agricultural investments.
His expertise covers a wide area such as corporate practice, asset acquisition, property acquisition, sales and management, farm management and consultancy.
He consults for individuals and corporate organization across Nigeria and abroad.
He could be contacted via: firstname.lastname@example.org +2348032493960, +2348050221164, or propertylinelawyers.wordpress.com.
More details in NAIJ.com’s step-by-step guide for guest bloggers.
Death is an inevitable end but most people ignore its reality and pretend as if they are in the know of when the uninvited visitor of death will come knocking.
Even though nobody can deny the reality of death yet Nigerians are scary of writing their will which will speak for them when their mouths are permanently sealed forever. Nigerians have the erroneous belief that it is only those that are preparing to die or the aged that write will.
What is a will?
A will is an instrument by which a person makes disposition of his real estate and personal property, to take effect after his death. A will could be revoked or amended by the maker during his life time as many times as he wishes. The one who writes a Will is known in law as a Testator.
The last will and testament is the last will made by the testator before his demise. The last will revokes the previous will.
The need to revoke a previous will and make a new one usually occurs where the testator intends to change the way his property should be distributed after his death. Where the testator intends to add some things to the will he might just prepare an addendum called codicil.
A Will states what will happen to the testator’s assets after his death. This includes, but is not limited to, your estate, property, possessions, money and children. The consequences of not having a will are quite serious.
A Statutory Will is one made in accordance with the provisions of the relevant statutes in force. Some of the relevant laws governing Will in Nigeria include the Wills Act 1837, Wills Act Amendment Act 1852, Wills Law of Lagos State etc.
Who can make a will?
Every adult person may make will in English form. The moment a person is of age and has properties both real and personal to pass to a favored and preferred beneficiary, then he is qualified to write a Will.
The age of adulthood is a matter of law provided in the Will Law applicable to the testator’s place of domicile.
The importance of writing will cannot be over emphasized. A man may either die leaving a will which means he died testate or he dies without living a will which means he died intestate.
Importance of a will
(1) Where a deceased died living a will there is less likelihood of conflict concerning how his estate should be administered. This is a way of protecting one’s immediate family against those who may want to reap where they did not sow.
(2) ‘Will’ avails the family of the deceased the opportunity to know all the properties that the deceased has, which they might not have known if the deceased died intestate, which could lead to loss of properties into wrong hands.
(3) The testator will have the opportunity of determining how his property should be distributed. A will excludes the rule of inheritance in accordance with the administration of estate law which provides the mode of distributing the estate of the person that dies intestate.
The problem relating to this is that the mode of distributing the estate may not be according to the intention and wishes of the testator.
(4) The testator will have the opportunity in his lifetime to appoint the persons he trusted who will not betray his trust, as his executors to administer his estate at his death.
(5) The testator in his lifetime will have the opportunity to give instruction regarding his burial arrangement.
(6) The testator by his will may make a donation/gift to charity, foundation, club, churches or mosque, mother, father or persons that are not related to him by blood but if he dies intestate it is only those that are related to him by blood that can benefit from his estate.
(7) The testator may under his will determines who inherits and who should be disinherited according to his wishes and desires. However, where the deceased died without a will, this will not be possible because the administration of estate law which is applicable to a person that dies intestate stipulates how the estate should be distributed and this might be against the desires and wishes of the deceased.
(8) The testator will have the opportunity under his will to appoint a guardian for his infant children that are not independent at the time of his death.
(9) Where a person died without a will, the Intestacy Rules (Administration of Estate Law) will decide where the deceased money goes, which can be upsetting for those left behind, who see assets passed on perhaps to estranged family members and even former spouses who will have a claim if there is no will in place.
(10) For a deceased person who has no relatives and dies without a will, it can be an even more worrisome. In this case, unless long lost relatives can be located, all assets pass to the government, when it could have been left to charities or very dear friends, if only there had been a will.
(11) Where the deceased died testate, there will not be a lacuna in the administration of his estate because by operation of law, the executors of the last surviving executor shall continue to administer his estate but where he died intestate, at the death of the last surviving administrator, there shall be need to apply for a new letter of administration to administer the estate.
(12) The executors appointed under the will may begin to administer the estate in accordance with the wishes of the deceased immediately after his death and before the letter of probate is granted, because their authority flows from the will but where the deceased died without a will, the personal representatives must wait for the Letter of administration before administering the estate of the deceased because their authority is derived from the letter of administration.
He who died living a will has the opportunity of deciding how his fruits of labour should be distributed.
You are working day and night to acquire some properties: exotic cars, beautiful mansion, expanse of land; wouldn’t you express how they should be distributed after your death?
Without a will your wishes will be irrelevant and the distribution will not be according to your desires and wishes. Drafting a Last Will ensures that your estate is handled according to your preference.
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