• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Will or no Will?

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Joining requirements for many companies include filling out a will. Or filling out a next of kin information, at worse in your on-boarding forms. When I started working, I had thought only persons with tons 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 the rich and famous (people who died interstate as they call it) – the legendary Bob Marley is one of such, whose estates and revenues from extra-ordinary 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, some stories about people dying interstate are downright hilarious and oftentimes, so careless and unnecessary! The effects have left many families in pain.

The most common occurrence around this type of issue is often – 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 become the inheritors. The wife and children for whom he worked so hard for are left with nothing tangible.

I was at a party once where someone was narrating a story told 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 and to collect his benefits. This storyteller’s uncle said he was the admin officer in charge of this work areas at the time – in the 70s or so.

He said, after carefully interviewing everyone, he found out the late junior officer had eight children in all. Not surprising when he looked at the deceased officer’s form, he realised to his shock that the officer had filled out his brother as next of kin. The brother – the one who led the group to the office was already sounding like the heir to a not robust throne. This friend’s uncle said, it seemed like a movie he had watched too often, brother takes over paltry pay out, uses some for the funeral and then children begin queuing up at him 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. This uncle saved an otherwise sticky situation.

Not that I didn’t wonder what a man of that level had two wives for, and eight children? We couldn’t have clapped for him, if he was here. We thought basic economics required that you managed your life according to your resources. There’re cases where wills have been executed but challenged in court, that’s a separate kettle of fish as we say, but let’s all do the right things first – understand the implications of signing up relatives vs. spouses as next of kin, understand the value the witnesses the will bring, then update our records with our current next of kin.

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 and that in the crime and investigation channels, those types of questions preceded planned murders! I didn’t mince words telling her too much CSI channel was messing up her head!

She said because she watched too much of it, especially the ‘women who kill’ episodes, her husband had once jokingly asked ‘do you want to kill me?’ So, asking this ‘do you have your will updated question was too close to this episode. Strange happenings for people I thought very close, but I hope that she indeed found time, sometime to advise him.

We’d hate for them 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 – we must take action!?????

 

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