Write that Will: Protecting my Past, Present and Future

Gift from the Grave

Most human beings want to be rich and successful, these riches are not just for our own good but also for the good of those we love. Our drive to success can be derived from the need to provide for our parents, wives and children. Yet the African mentality is fraught with the belief that “to write a will is to call death to yourself”. Yet as Christians, we all acknowledge that we must die one day (recall the meaning of the symbol of the cross drawn on our forehead on Ash Wednesday). Let me tell you all a story.

Kola comes from a poor background, his parents struggled every day to train him in a Federal university. His mother, who is a trader, had to take up several cleaning jobs in order to support his goal. His father, barely got any sleep and his back was bent because of the unending hours of work. Yet they were happy, it was a labor of love and Kola was the hope of the family. Kola graduated with a first class degree and got a good job. He was able to rent and furnish a good apartment for his parents. He also began saving money for his parents retirement in Chase Bank where he made his Father and Mother his next of kin. He got married, first came the court marriage, then the traditional wedding and church wedding and nine months later, a bouncing baby boy, life was good. On his way to work, one faithful morning, He had an accident and died. Kola’s physical possessions included 2 cars worth 10 million naira and 5million naira in Freedom Bank and 4 million naira in Freedom Bank.  Upon his death, his parents could not gain access to any of his  property, including the money in Freedom Bank and all his wealth went to his wife and child. At first, his wife continued to support his parents but over time, his parents needs became greater and his wife’s ties to his family was not as strong as it used to be (you would not blame her, her link to them was gone and 7 years later, she remarried). His parents returned to abject poverty, and died.


Tunde’s Story fared better than Kola’s, he hails from a middle class family and was able to attend good schools. After his graduation, he decided to pursue his love for fashion and became a fashion designer. While he was still struggling to get his name on the map, he met Bola and they fell in Love. Tunde wanted to expand his business but was not financially able to. Bola decided to contribute 90% of her savings to Tunde, and this helped him rent and furnish a shop in Lekki. Tunde and Bola later got married, business was booming and life was good. Tunde built two houses and bought cars for himself, his wife and his parents. He suggested that Bola should further her education as he was financially capable of taking care of the family during that period. Bola then quit her job and began her study to attain a professional qualification. The family’s goal was to enable Bola get a better Job after her education, since Tunde had a friend who could help with this endeavor. Two months later, Tunde died. His wife was asked to move out of their matrimonial home because she had no children. Bola moved in with her parents and began to search for a job in our hard Nigerian Economy.


It might interest you to know that the above scenario are not mere friction, but true life stories. Family and love are destroyed when we don’t express our wishes in plain terms. That is the definition of a WILL (an expression of a man’s thoughts and wishes, which are made known after his death).

To further clarify some misconceptions about inheritance that are common in Nigeria;

The effect of a WILL

A man who has a WILL at the time of his death is considered to have died TESTATE. Such a man’s WILL would take precedence over any law or custom. The only exception to this rule is when the WILL is contested and consequently set aside by a competent court.

The effect of a Statutory Marriage

A statutory marriage can be a Court wedding or a Church wedding (under certain terms and conditions). This marriage gives the following people the right to administer the estate of the deceased (excluding landed property) in the following order; Spouse, Children (those considered to be adults by the law) parents, siblings and extended family.

The effect of “next of kin” in a bank account

The person listed as the next of kin in a bank account is of no effect when it bothers on inheritance. It simply is used by the bank, as the person to contact, when they cannot get in touch with the account holder.

The fate of landed property

Landed property is administered, when a man dies without a will (INTESTATE) by the customary laws of the place in which the land is located. This means that if a Yoruba man dies intestate, then his landed property in Benin City would be administered according to Benin Customary law.

What Happens when a man dies intestate.

If he was married according to Statutory marriage, then Statutory law would prevail, if not, the customary law of the deceased would prevail (this statement is without prejudice to the peculiarity of the administration of landed property as previously stated)

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