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OPINION: The big question – why should I write a Will?



Whenever the need to write a Will is discussed, people tend to excuse themselves from the discourse. This is due to the myth linking the writing of Wills to the anticipation of death.

Unknown to many, the benefits of writing a Will are numerous, and these benefits outweigh the disadvantages of not writing a Will. Oftentimes, social media platforms are flooded with stories of trusted family members and friends spending their subject’s inheritance at the detriment of the beneficiaries. The unpalatable trend reiterate the call for every adult to have an estate plan to guide their lifetime and their post-life-time.

One major benefit of writing a Will is that it provides the opportunity to determine who will get the hard-earned assets after one’s demise. The Wills Law of Lagos State and the Wills Law of other similar states empowers every adult to lawfully bequeath or dispose of any property owned in law or equity. To put it simply, once you have attained maturity, you can validly write a Will even though you don’t plan to die anytime soon. Amongst other benefits, writing a Will is one of the most potent ways of preserving assets for one’s beneficiary in future. Additionally, writing a Will provides the opportunity to appoint persons who will execute your testamentary wishes. A Will also allow you to appoint guardians for the well-being of underage children.

Strange but true, some years ago, I met a lady whose spouse died leaving her with a baby, a few houses, farmland, cars and expensive jewellery. While she was mourning the loss of her husband, the extended family members and friends briefly mourned with her and subsequently, started disposing of the vehicles and other personal chattels of the deceased. A few months later, she was evicted from her matrimonial home. Some of her husband’s debtors denied the debts and never paid. She was traumatized to the extent that she rejected pro bono legal services and resorted to walking away and moving on with her Son. All this happened to her because her spouse died without leaving a Will. Her husband’s Will would have identified all his assets, his debtors and determine what is due to everyone.

Unfortunately, it was too late for the deceased husband to re-write the wrong. Everyone living has the opportunity to preserve their assets for their beneficiaries and protect their future by writing a Will. A Will can be likened to a legal shield for beneficiaries especially the disadvantaged class such as children outside wedlock, undocumented adopted/foster children, underage children, children from previous marriage and in some cultures – girl child.

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Further, another advantage of writing a Will is that it helps to avoid the need for obtaining Letters of Administration. In Nigeria, when a person dies without leaving a Will, the person is said to have died intestate, and the relatives will be required to apply for and obtain a document known as a Letter of Administration before they can lawfully administer the deceased’s properties.

Getting this document is not only expensive, but it is also time-consuming, and due to inadequate data management in the country, the possibility of fraud and misrepresentation is not unlikely. It is enough trauma losing a loved one, don’t further expose them to the trauma of going through a tough time assessing the benefits left for them.

Writing a Will also provide the opportunity to continue doing those charitable deeds done during one’s lifetime. For instance, if a person regularly sponsors religious events or orphanages, death ordinarily halts such good deeds. However, with a Will, such a person can continue to make provisions for those religious events or orphanages as done during his/her lifetime.

Fortunately, everyone who has attained the age of maturity irrespective of gender can write a Will. I usually advise anyone who has assets as little as a Retirement Savings Account or Bank Account to write a Will. Moreso, the Pension Reforms Act 2014 provides that funds in the retirement savings account of a deceased person can only be accessed by the beneficiaries upon presentation of a Will admitted to Probate or Letters of Administration.

Our legal system has advanced to accommodate bequeathing of body organs and tissues via Wills. Section 55 of the National Health Act allows a person to donate his/organ such as Kidney, heart etc. to any designated person or health institution for treatment of such persons or research. These organs are of no use to the deceased but could be of enormous value to the living and save thousands of life awaiting organ transplants and seeking donors.

In this era where there is repeated breakdown of morals and social values, failure to write a Will is a plan to fail. Think of writing a Will today. It is the responsible thing to do.

Author: Gbolahan Oluyemi ([email protected])

Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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