4th June, 2010
It always sounds strange whenever someone is told to write his or her will. The first question that comes to our mind is, is he praying for my death?
Before we go on we have to first of all know the true meaning of the word â€œwillâ€. A will, in a laymanâ€™s language is a legal document that explains what you want to happen to your money and possessions after you die. This is often more formally called a last will and testament.
The idea of writing a will is not new to Nigerians. It has always existed even in the pre-colonial era. There was no formal education in those days. In the eastern part, where I come from, men always prayed for a male child to inherit his wealth. What was that wealth? The numerous wives and farmlands?
In those days, people make their will verbally before death. I donâ€™t know why, but in those days it was widely believed that people died at old age and to an extent it worked for them. These days, we have people die at a very young age due to the stress and environmental hazards. Civilisation is good but it has its own negative contributions.
No one wants to think of the possibility of death, that is, his/her own death. But death, they say, is inevitable. No matter how much we avoid talking about it, we will all leave this world someday. Research has shown that less than 10% of Nigerians have their will clearly written. It is advisable to make sure that your family and other loved ones are provided for if anything happens to you.
In writing a will, your property and possessions will include everything you own including land, houses, vehicles, bank accounts, jewellery, shares, etc. A will is the only way you can ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death.
I remember visiting a friend and laughing over the reaction of her husband when she told him to write his will. My friend is a very blessed business consultant. She wrote her own will and came home advising the husband to write his. The husband, just like every other human being couldnâ€™t understand why the wife was asking for a will.
When I entered the house that day, there was a very unusual coldness on every side. So many thoughts were going through the manâ€™s head. Does it mean his wife wants to kill him and take his property? When I walked in, my friend told me what it was. In my usual manner, I made the man to open up.
We went into a very serious deliberation over this issue of making a will. I gave him an instance of a very Senior Advocate of Nigeria who died without leaving a will. Now the children are in court fighting and destroying themselves because of the carelessness of their father. I thank God that he was able to see reason with his wife. The next day, he called me while at work telling me he is with his lawyer to prepare his will. He is still alive and I know he wonâ€™t die any time soon, nobody knows who will die first, but he has done the most important thing.
So many men make the mistake of trusting their own brother or sister more than they trust their wife and children. Because they are all over you now and serve you like a king doesnâ€™t mean they have your interest at heart. I have realised that most relations are just fair weather friends. There are friends that are worth more than brothers .But I donâ€™t know if such friends still exist in our dear nation.
It is not enough writing a will. You must ensure your will is valid. A valid will is a will that is accepted by the court and put into effect by the court granting what is known as probate. Probate is approval or acceptance by the court of how your assets are to be dealt with.
â€¢ A valid will must have the following features:
â€¢ It must be in writing: handwritten, typed or printed.
â€¢ It must bear your signature at the end of the document
â€¢ It must be witnessed by at least two witnesses at the time of signing.
Please bear in mind that in choosing these witnesses for your will, it is always better looking for someone who has integrity and the fear of God. A lot of people have had their will not properly executed at death because they were surrounded by sycophants and gullible people. Also bear in mind that it is not advisable to have a beneficiary as a witness.
You may so much love and trust your brother that you want him as a executor of your will, but I can tell you that no matter how much you think he loves you now, it takes God to see a man who will be loyal to you once you close your eyes in death. Even very rich relations have taken things from the family of their late brother and added to the much they already have, leaving the children and the widow to suffer.
Our tradition is one that leaves no space for widows. I know you love your wife and children very much that you go out of your way to give them all the good things of life now. I also know you wonâ€™t be happy to see them suffer and in everlasting lack after your death. I know you donâ€™t pray to have other people who never went through the sleepless nights with you, people who never knew what you went through to make the money. I know you donâ€™t pray to have them squander all you laboured for in life while your children donâ€™t even have money to go to school.
In choosing an executor to your will, please make sure you seek professional advice and do away with sentiments. It is always better going for a very neutral person. The executor of your will can be a lawyer that you have so much confidence in. It is unfortunate that so many lawyers of our time are gullible and lack integrity. They can sell you for a mere N200,000. You can also go for an old friend who has no serious attachment to your family and who has proven integrity.
So many Nigerian men are indirectly polygamous. They live with their wives and act very spiritual and committed to the relationship. Some of them have uncountable number of children outside the home. It is only at death you see different women coming up with their children to claim the manâ€™s assets. If you live such a life, having a will protects your children at death.
If you have chosen to have a second wife as an African man, nobody will stand on your way. If you want to keep that other woman out there and treat her as a second wife without legalizing the union, itâ€™s your life. But if you love those women and also love your children, make plans for their future before death comes knocking.
I remember a big time transporter who died about three years ago leaving the family in disarray. The man failed to plan well for his death. The fight was a very bad one that the children and their mothers even fought during his funeral. What a sad story to be told about such an influential man.
Is this the kind of thing you want to see happen to you at death? Is this the kind of pain you want to put your children through? Do you want to throw your family into everlasting turmoil? Now you have friends and relations trooping into your big compound every minute. They wake up in the morning running to pledge allegiance to you, their king.
Nigeria is a country filled with sycophants. However you do it is okay by them because all they are interested in is your pocket. The moment you run into bankruptcy or death comes knocking, you will know that the so called love is hatred in disguise.
Donâ€™t make the mistake of trusting relatives so much with your will. Those brothers acting to love your children and wife so much are doing that just to impress you and win your trust. So many of them donâ€™t even talk to your wife in your absence. But the moment you show up, they over-pamper them.
A word, they say, is enough for the wise. The late Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, has shown us what it means to have a well organized life and family. He is dead but nobody is fighting or killing the other over his assets. He even went to the level of having a TRUSTEE before his death.
Death is no longer by age. Nobody knows when death will come calling. Prepare for your children and wife before you leave this world. Remember your female children are as important as the male ones. I have come to realise that female children take better care of their parents at old age more than the male does. Don’t ignore your daughter in your will. She may never forgive you.