Some people are of the opinion that adding a person’s name as their next of kin in their bank document automatically gives that person access to their money upon their demise. This is a false presumption as there are various laws preventing such an individual from inheriting this wealth. I will discuss some of the issues that prevent a person from inheriting such monies and the things you need to do to ensure their future.
There are two fundamental questions that one must ask when dealing with issues of inheritance. They include: whether the deceased has a Will (a document written by a deceased when he was alive that prescribes how his property is to be shared when he dies) or whether he dies without a Will. If there is a Will, the issue of Next of Kin becomes useless as the wealth (property) of the person is shared as per the contents of the Will. It is assumed that the person has properly put into writing his wishes.
When a person dies without a Will, inheritance is determined by law which could be customary law or Islamic law or English Law or the Administration of Estates Law (or equivalent legislation) not whom the deceased mentioned in his bank or place of work as next-of-kin.
So how do we know the law to be applied in any situation? Well, if you are married, you are in for a surprise because your mode of marriage determines the relevant law to be applied. For statutory marriages commonly referred to as court marriage, succession to his wealth will be effected in accordance with either the English law or the Administration of Estates Law (or equivalent legislation), depending on the jurisdiction. Under English Law and the Administration of Estate Laws of various states, the surviving spouse together with the children of the deceased inherit his estate to the exclusion of every other person. The parents of the deceased takes next after the surviving spouse and children, followed by brothers and sisters of the full blood, brothers and sisters of half blood, grandparents, aunties and uncles of full blood relation to the parents of the deceased etc. Where however the deceased contracted a customary marriage, then customary law will determine who will inherit the property of the deceased. That is to say in the circumstance, heirs are those who are under native law and custom entitled to inherit his estate. For Muslims, Islamic law determines who to inherit the deceased estate.
Therefore, under the Nigerian law of intestate succession, one cannot choose his heir under the pretext of next-of-kin; the law imposes heirs on him. For example it is the surviving spouse and children of an intestate who married under the Act that are his heirs. The intestate cannot therefore, by naming only one of them or any of his other blood relatives his next-of-kin, scheme them out of inheritance as the act of naming his next-of-kin does not amount to testamentary disposition.
A next of kin in a bank document is simply the first point of contact when you are not available. It’s important to note that it has nothing to do with inheritance.