Wife of a deceased cannot be inherited under administration of estate law
Following the publication of my article, ‘’Probate: its legality and importance’’ in the Business Day Newspaper, a reader sent a WhatsApp message, commended me and the publishing outfit for the educative piece on the administration of the estate.
He also asked some very funny questions. However, my answers to the questions are best summed up by the title of this article. His story was that his wealthy late brother left behind properties; a young beautiful wife, lands, two medium factories, a school, etc. The young beautiful wife does not want to be “inherited” until after 1 year of the death of the husband. She is not concerned about other properties. He is the bonfire ‘‘heir’’. The family wants the young beautiful wife to start living with him immediately. Since the burial rites were over.
I understand the cultural narration to this. A brother, son, friend, and relative can marry a wife of his father, brother or friend, etc. Levirate marriage is considered a custom in some places. It is the reader’s choice of words ‘inherit” and ‘properties” and the idea behind their use that are faulty.
Of course, no dictionary supports the reader’s meaning and idea. So, it is apt at this junction to produce some portion of Section 58 of the Administration of Estates Act and Section 2 of the Administration of Estates Law of some states like Lagos state. They clearly defined these words as follows
“Conveyance” includes a mortgage, charge given under the Registration of Titles Law or the Registered Land Law, lease, assent, vesting declaration, disclaimer, release and every other assurance of property or of an interest therein by any instrument, except a will, and “convey” has a corresponding meaning.
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“Legal estates” mean the estates charges and interests in or overland (subsisting or created at law) which are by statute authorised to subsist or to be created at law; and “Equitable interests” means all other interests and charges in or over land or in the proceeds of sale thereof.
“Pecuniary legacy” includes an annuity, a general legacy, a demonstrative legacy so far as it is not discharged out of the designated property, and any other general direction by a testator for the payment of money, including all death duties free from which any device, bequest, or payment is made to take effect;
“Personal chattels” mean carriages, horses, stable furniture and effects (not used for business purposes), motor cars and accessories (not used for business purposes), garden effects, domestic animals, plate, plated articles, linen, china, glass, books, pictures, prints, furniture, jewelry, articles of household or personal use or ornament, musical and scientific instruments and apparatus, wines, liquors, and consumable stores, but do not include any chattels used at the death of the intestate for business purposes nor money or securities for money;
“Property” includes a thing in action and any interest in real or personal property;
“Securities” include stocks, funds, or shares;
Also, Section 8(2) Pension Reform Act 2014 provides that upon beneficiaries providing letters of administration or grant of probate to a Pension Fund Administrator, it shall with the approval of the commission release the amount standing in the retirement savings account of the deceased employee to his personal representatives.
A wife of a deceased was not mentioned or classified as a property that can be inherited in the Law and Act. Instead, a wife/spouse according to the laws has some special rights and privileges over the estate of a deceased. The 1999 constitution contains a bill of rights that protects the right to freedom of association, privacy, and religion amongst others including freedom from discrimination based on sex. Also, Levirate marriage has been legislated against by some states in Nigeria.
In 2001, Enugu State enacted The Prohibition of Infringement of a Widow’s and Widower’s Fundamental Rights Law, 2001 to protect the rights of widows and widowers, including the right to not participate in a levirate marriage. Violation of this law could result in a fine or a two-year jail term.
This addresses and clarifies in brief what makes up the estate of a deceased. A wife cannot be inherited under the administration of estates law.
Adekola is a legal practitioner and head, Probate Services, Greenwich Registrars and Data Solutions Limited. You can reach him on 08165299774 and 08150373535.