Property Law

The Right Time to Make a Will

Spouses and/or children usually take priority and inherit the property of a deceased when he or she dies without a will (intestate). But sadly, that’s not necessarily the case in our society. The stories of deceased family members, mostly spouses and children left stranded after losing the properties of the deceased to other relatives is commonplace. A situation most of us can relate to.

When a person dies intestate, his property is distributed either according to the customary law of inheritance; statutory devolution or such property can be meddled with by interested parties, creating an uneven and unfair sharing scheme which usually may not be the intentions of the deceased. However, all these can be avoided if the deceased writes a will while alive.

What is a Will?
A will also known as a testament is a legal document that expresses an individual’s (testator) wishes as to how their property (estate) is to be distributed after their death and as to which person (executor) is to manage the property until its final distribution. It is made voluntarily and executed according to the applicable laws. In the case of Okelola v Boyle, (citation) the Supreme Court of Nigeria defined a will as a document by which a person makes a disposition of his property to take effect after his death.

Who Can Make A Will
A person who have attained the age of 21 years can make a valid will. This is according to the provision of section 24 of Wills Act. Such persons must be of sound mind. Therefore, sick person, old persons, blind persons, deaf persons, dumb persons, illiterates, Christians, Muslims and Pagans can make a valid will. A person of unsound mind cannot make a valid will. Also, state laws prescribes certain age that need to be attained before a person can make a valid will. For example, section 3 of Wills Law of Lagos State, Nigeria prescribes 18years.

The advantages of making a will is inexhaustible. Outlined below are some of the major advantages:
You can dispose your property as you like to whoever you like
It protects the interest of your beneficiaries
It displaces the application of customary rules of inheritance
It displaces the application of the rules of statutory devolution
You can appoint trusted executors
It gives you the opportunity to make charitable gifts
It saves time, energy and reduces dispute among beneficiaries
Where you have infant children, you can appoint a guardian for them
However, a considerable number of persons still don’t see the need of making a will. Some of their reasons are
I am not dying anytime soon
I don’t have property to dispose by a will
I will share my property when I am about to die.
Who knows when they will die?

These reasons, or excuses, usually portray an underlying but seldom admitted state of
ignorance, or fear of the alleged expensive nature of wills and usually brings the reality of death
to people who dread the very thought.

Suffice it to say that the benefits far outweigh the fears.

What can be disposed by a Will
All properties can be disposed by a will. Including, contingent interest, right of entry and property acquired after execution of a will. This means that everything owned by an individual can be disposed by a will which includes real and personal property like landed property, vehicles, money in the bank, shares, bonds, business etc.

Can a person make a will on his or her own? YES as long as it is written and signed in the presence of two credible witnesses and signed by them too. However, it is advised you approach a lawyer or a trustee company to make the will subject to your instructions and according to applicable laws to avoid a disposition being invalid because of how it is construed.

Since death is inevitable and the time of death is uncertain, it is advised that a person who have attained the age of 21 years and above should make a will regardless of the amount of property owned. A will is not a one off document. It can be amended at anytime before the death of the testator to include new properties, new beneficiaries and amendments to the disposition in it.

Will you like to still be in control of the distribution of your property even after death? Do you want to control who gets what, when and how ? To gain insights on what your beneficiaries stand to face, the next time you visit your account manager, enquire on the procedures and expected timelines of accessing funds in deceased’s bank account with and without a will.

The right time to make a will is NOW. Failure to prepare a typically leaves decisions about your estate (property) in the hands of judges or state officials, and may result in family strife.
Make a will today and protect the interest of your beneficiaries.