“Much as Africans think it is morbid to prepare the family for life after a loved one’s departure from earth, the reality is that death is a necessary end which will come when it will come. We cannot shy away from death. What happens to our loved ones after our passing is therefore of utmost importance and requires careful planning and execution”. These were the opening remarks of the coordinator at a symposium for intending retirees, held recently to sensitise them on various options of provision for members of one’s family after their departure. The discussants comprised a young widower and three widows at different stages of their lives.

Ikechukwu is a widower whose wife, Miranda, worked as a Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of a Construction firm and lost her life in a car accident while on an official trip. The office invited him to the office to collect her benefits after her demise and in his own words, ”You could imagine the shock combined with a sense of shame and disappointment when I arrived at the office to collect the entitlements, hoping it would help with the first term fees of our two children then in Secondary school, but was informed that I was not the named next-of-kin in her official records. Upon enquiry, I discovered the named next-of-kin to be her immediate older brother. Apparently, she had completed that information when she started work as a spinster and had failed/neglected to update it after marriage. The office had no right to do anything contrary to what was documented”.

Ebhaide was the next to speak and she set out her experience thus: “My dear Brume was a meticulous man who though in his early fifties when he passed, had a properly executed Will. His Lawyer was one of the executors and it was only on sighting the Will I realised the extent of his assets which were properly documented and identified in the Will. The beneficiaries which included me, my children, the children of his estranged wife and his siblings were clearly identified and bequeathed according to his wishes. However, the process of obtaining the probate of the court to enable execution of the Will was both expensive as a result of payment of Estate taxes/death duty and other legal fees as well as time-consuming especially as the Will had to be “resealed” in all the other states in which he had properties. An otherwise simple process of devolution was further compounded by the authenticity of the Will being contested in court by his estranged wife and her children. It took the decision of the court after a protracted legal battle, to enable the administration of the Will”.

An amused Foluke exclaimed “Ah…at least there was a Will to help you ascertain his property. My husband, Layi died intestate (without leaving a Will) and neither myself nor Laide (his second wife) had a clear picture of his assets and /or liabilities. It, therefore, took a while for us to unravel most of his assets in the form of stocks, bank accounts and one partly developed property in the Federal Capital Territory. He was more of a weekend husband as he worked in Abuja and his family is based in Abeokuta. The process of obtaining Letters of Administration from the Probate Registry to enable us access to the identified assets was both cumbersome and expensive. We were however eventually able to have both me and Laide named as Administrators to his Estate and I sometimes wonder if there are any unidentified properties of his”.

Rekiya, on the other hand, was full of praises for Yahaya who despite having four wives and a large number of children had adequately provided for his family even after his death. She explained “Yahaya was blessed with real estate, stock, various investments and a thriving business which was wisely and equitably shared and maximised by largely circumventing the payment of death duty on his assets.

  1. He had done deeds of gifts to all four wives in his lifetime transferring ownership of their residences to them.
  2. His privately owned business was a going concern which had the eldest children from each wife as shareholders and Directors on the Board. All stock, rental income, money market and other investments were held in the name of the Company and paid into a dedicated account in the name of the company.
  3. He set up an Education Trust Fund with a Trustee firm for each of the children that were still in school to sponsor their education up to the Postgraduate level”.

The coordinator then summarised the take-aways as follows:

  1. Spouses and particularly breadwinners with dependants should be mindful in effecting changes in documentation when their circumstances change e.g., marriage, divorce, acquisitions, forfeitures etc.
  2. It is important to have at least one trusted person identify all one’s assets and liabilities during their lifetime. The trusted person may be a spouse, child, friend etc.
  3. One must be intentional about the legacy to be passed to family members by weighing the options and considering cost, the complexity of execution etc.
  4. It is never too early to prepare. As soon as the acquisition of assets starts, one’s mind should be prepared.




  1. It is wise to take up these policies and keep them in force. The will is a must as soon as one gets married. I took up these late in life. The moment I turned 70 I went ahead and took all up. I have only one child and he’s always my next of kin. Also it’s important to let one’s dependents know where these are kept. With all occurrences these days, be it in life or death, one should safeguard the interests of one’s family.


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