• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Will or no will?

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When I started working, I had thought only persons with many of estates had wills, I was surprised to find out that this wasn’t so. Everyone who had any assets including work benefits should have a will.

There are many stories about people who didn’t have wills including rich and famous people who died interstate as they call it. The legendary Bob Marley is one of such, whose estates and revenues from extraordinary songs have not been going to his immediate family after so many decades. Strangely, the one and only Abraham Lincoln we all love, despite being a lawyer and a President didn’t have a will. At home here, there are stories about people dying interstate. These stories are downright hilarious. Oftentimes, the principals are so careless with their benefits and other properties. The effects of their carelessness have left many families in pain.

The most common circumstances around this type of issue is often go like this: man joins a company as a single man, and as he rises up the career ladder in this company he forgets to update his records or his will. When sudden death occurs, his parents who are dead or who have no need for the funds inherit it. The wife and children for whom he worked so hard for are left with nothing tangible.

This brings to mind my experience some time ago. I was at a party where someone narrated a story told to him by his Uncle who was a retired Air Vice Marshall. In this story, a really junior officer had just passed on and his family comprising his brothers, two wives and first two children had come round for a meeting to collect his benefits. This story teller’s uncle was the admin officer in charge of that zone at the time- in the seventies or so. He said, after carefully interviewing everyone, he found out the late junior officer had eight children in all. Surprisingly, when he looked at the deceased officers form, he realised the officer had written his brother as next of kin. The brother who led the group to the office was already sounding like the heir to a not robust throne. The narrator’s uncle said, it seemed like a movie to him. He had watched too often in films how brother takes over paltry pay out, uses some of it for the funeral and then children begin queuing up at his doorstep each term for the school fees.

He said he asked everyone to go home and return the following day for he needed to think of what was best to do and also carry his boss along. After deliberations, his bosses agreed to his proposal of splitting the sum equally to both wives and giving them the cheques to that effect. The narrator’s uncle saved an otherwise sticky situation.

Since then I wondered what a man of that level had two wives for and eight children for? I couldn’t have clapped for him, if he was here. I thought basic economics required that you managed your life according to your resources.

Also, there are cases where wills have been executed but challenged in court, that’s a separate kettle of fish as they say. It is important we all learn to do the right things. First, we must understand the implications of putting relatives as opposed to spouses as next of kin. We should understand the value the witnesses of or wills will bring to our immediate families after our demise. We should also update our records with our current next of kins.

This advice becomes necessary after listening to a group of wealth managers a couple of years ago. They had come to our offices to market some of their products. We were all told to go home and speak to our spouses about updating their records. My truly naija friend said she felt that was a very morbid conversation to have with her spouse. For her, it is on the crime and investigation channels those types of questions preceded planned murders! I didn’t mince words telling her too much of episodes on Crime ad Investigation channel were messing up her head. Clearly, she had been watching too much of it especially the ‘women who kill’ episodes. According to her, her husband had once jokingly asked: ‘do you want to kill me?’ Hence asking this: ‘do you have your will updated?’ was too close to this episode.

Strange are happening to people I thought are very close to me, but I hope that she indeed found time, to advice her spouse. I am sure she would hate it for her story to be used for a Nollywood script—- man dies, relatives come and move you out of the house and business (couldn’t be bothered if it is co –owned) and then begin to hand out stipends to you and your children. I think this is the one occasion that our typical ‘God forbid’ doesn’t suffice. Therefore, we must take action!

Nkiru Olumide-Ojo