When a person dies, he either dies testate (with a Will) or intestate (without a Will). A Will can be kept with the Solicitor, bank, or at the probate registry in the state of residence of the deceased.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that directs the distribution of the assets of a person (called a testator) upon his/her death. The testator appoints executors who administer his/her estate (assets and property) and ensure that debts and creditors of the deceased are paid off and the left-over money or property distributed according to the last wishes of the deceased.
Wills are governed by the Wills Laws (as applicable) in the various Nigerian states. A will could be oral or written but for best practice it is always advised that it be written. (In Nigeria oral Wills are only valid in some states and not all states in the Federation). The Will describes and identifies the assets of the deceased, including liabilities (if included).
For a will to be valid it must satisfy all of the following or an interested party may challenge the legality of that Will in a court of competent jurisdiction.
- The testator must have been of sound mind
- The Will must have been made voluntarily
- The Will must be in writing (Typed or written)
- The Will must have been signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses who must attest to same.
- The Will must identify the assets and beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.
- It must name the beneficiaries.
Above all the person making this Will must be of legal age (18) at the time the Will was made.
A testator at making the Will appoints an executor in the Will whose duty is to manage and administer the estate of the deceased until it can be validly given to the beneficiary. Executors are supposed to carry out the wishes of the testator as stated in the Will and hold property in trust for the beneficiaries when necessary (in situations where the beneficiary is a minor).
What is a Letter of Administration?
Where a person dies without writing a Will a letter of administration is granted by the Probate Registrar of the state where the deceased passed on to enable these parties (minimum of two people) to manage, execute and administer the estate of the deceased. To get a letter of administration the executors will make a written application to the Probate registry. The Probate Registry is at liberty to choose the executors however the office usually considers the provisions of the Law which states the order of distribution of an intestate’s assets with the spouse and children of the deceased person as first in line before any other party who is a family to the deceased.
In Lagos state to apply for a letter of administration the people applying must provide, A death certificate, Two passport photograph of each administrator, valid means of identification, the application forms for letters of administration consist of the following: bank certificate, application for letters of administration (without Will), oath for administration (without Will), administration bond (without Will), declaration as to next of kin form, inventory of assets form, particulars of freehold/leasehold properties left by the deceased, schedule of debts and funeral expenses.
Once the forms have been filled and a value of the assets declared is calculated, the assessment sheet/pay sheet is issued for the applicants to pay the probate fees. After payment is made, there is the publication of the Estate in a National daily newspaper. The purpose of the publication is to ensure that the public is aware that letters of administration will be issued to the applying administrators, in the absence of any opposition. This publication is an opportunity for the any member of the public to file a caveat or enter an opposition to the process, which will be upheld and referred to the court, if the basis of the opposition is substantial.
Where there is no opposition, after 21 days from the date of the publication, the process will continue by the preparation of the minutes and order.The minutes and order with the file will be passed to the Probate Judge for approval. After approval, the final letters of administration will be prepared and thereafter dispatched to the Probate Registrar to be signed and delivered to the applicants.
Importance of a Wills in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry
In an Industry that deals and revolves around Intellectual property. (Intellectual property is described as an intangible property) nonetheless does not make them any less a property that should be put in a Will.
- You can keep your assets out of the hands of people you don’t want to have them. It makes your wishes known and the distribution of your assets will be according to the rules of intestacy.
- Provide for those you choose: if you are not married, do not have a civil partnership, you cannot inherit your spouse or partner’s estate unless this person has a valid Will.
- Protect your children.
- Your heirs will have a faster and easier time getting access to your assets.
- You can plan to save your estate money on taxes. You can also give gifts and charitable donations, which can help offset the estate tax.
- Protect your estate from being contested. The interstate customary laws allow some certain person’s lay claims for provision from another person’s estate, even if the person never intended to care for them or leave them any asset or money. Making a Will, will greatly reduce chances of some person in your past rising up to claim they helped you become a star and soak garri when you did not have anything so they have to inherit from you now that you are dead and gone.
- You can identify who should care for your children. Without a will, the courts will decide.
- To eliminate the tedious process of getting a grant of letters of administration. If this takes too long sometimes the properties in the estate may have depleted.
- Peace of mind. Knowing full well that everyone is taken care of and the testator has chosen people he/she deems right to execute and carry on their legacy. More importantly so the dead’s spirit can rest in peace and not receive curses daily.
Conclusively, nobody is too young or old to make a Will. Once you are 18 years or above, of sound mind and have any form of property (tangible or Intangible) no matter how little it is write it down and know that the people left behind will be happy you left something great for them that might in turn multiply.