You must have seen how some women have been treated unfairly with their children by the relatives of their deceased husbands: and were not given access to any of the man’s assets because there was no will written. Sadly, this is common in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and some African countries.
Yes, it’s a selfish world, and that’s one of the importance of writing a will if you have some assets. You don’t have to be in your old age before you write a will – this is a common misconception among many people. Writing a will doesn’t mean death is imminent.
A will is a legal document that reveals a person’s wishes about how his/her properties should be shared after their demise. With a will, a person can manage, control, and distribute his properties when they are no more.
And you don’t necessarily need an attorney to help you draft your will. You can write a will by yourself, provided it meets all the legal requirements. This article covers essential information about will writing and why you need to write one now.
What is covered in a will?
All your properties can be covered in a will, however, there are exceptions. Some properties such as insurance policies and retirement accounts are not covered by a will. The reason is that when opening this account or taking out the insurance policies, part of the process requires you to list the beneficiary of the account.
Simply put, any property which has its beneficiary listed in the process is not covered by a will. What needs to be provided in a will is the name of the executor, the beneficiaries of the property, a backup executor in some cases, and a guardian in case there are minors.
How to make a valid will
For a will to be valid under Nigerian law, it must meet some requirement which includes:
1. Written: The testator must put the will into writing. However, it must be typed and printed to avoid any error from the one written by hand or changed without the consent of the testator.
2. Under section 7 of the Wills Act, the testator must be above 18 and show no sign of infirmity or mental impairment.
3. The will must be made voluntarily without any undue influence or pressure.
4. The testator must append his/her signature in the presence of two witnesses who must be present at the same time.
5. The witnesses too must sign the will in the presence of the testator to avoid loopholes. Note that according to section 15 of the Wills Act, a witness can not be a beneficiary to a will, and any property bequeathed to a witness will be a nullity.
6. The will must state clearly the name of the beneficiary and property bestowed.
Step-by-step process of writing a will
Here are the steps to writing a will:
1. Understand the Wills Act or law
The very first step is to read and understand the Wills Act or law. The will act has already been stated above.
2. Place a title
Place a clear title to describe the will as your last wish and testament with the date. You can also add a sentence to disregard any previous will you have drafted.
3. Name an executor
This is very important in the process of writing a will, the person must be honest and trustworthy. An executor is someone you trust to fulfill your last wishes after your demise.
He/she is saddled with the responsibility of collating and distributing your properties to the beneficiaries. It is advisable to have more than one executor. So that one will serve as a backup in case of unavailability of the other.
4. Name a guardian
In case you have a minor- name a guardian to manage and take physical custody of the underaged children after your demise.
5. List out your property
This is a vital stage, list out all your properties i.e both personal and real property and state the beneficiary of each asset including the locations. Also, make a description of each property.
6. Name your beneficiary
Make a clear description of the beneficiary of each asset.
7. Insert a residual clause
A residual clause is a phrase that can be used to explain your property that you did not leave a named beneficiary. You can insert a residual clause if need be.
8. Attach a letter as a goodbye message
You can also attach a letter as a goodbye message if you have more to say, or want to encourage your family to move on.
9. Execute your will
Once you are done, execute your will by signing it in front of 2 adult witnesses who must be present at the same time.
10. Safe keep your will
Keep your will in a confidential place where only your executors can find it easily.
11. Update your will regularly
Revisit and update your will regularly, in case there are disputes, divorce, the birth of children, etc.
Important information to add when drafting a will
1. Your full name and addresses
2. The full name and address of your executors.
3. Full name and address of beneficiaries.
4. The name and address of the guardian, if there are minors among the beneficiaries.
5. The full list and particulars of the properties.
6. Full name and address of witnesses to the will.
Special cases when you should not write a Will by yourself
1. When you have property overseas.
2. When you desire to leave a business to someone in the will.
3. When you have a complex wish that might not be easily understood.
4. When you have people that rely on you financially but are not part of your family and you intend to let them have a share of your property.
5. When you have a foreign investment or bank account.
Why should you write your Will?
1. Death is inevitable and comes unannounced, therefore it is very important to write a will to prevent your property from being frittered away by those not deserving.
2. To prevent disputes among family members after your demise.
3. To manage and control your property even after death.
4. To protect the children and buy a glorious future for them.
5. To reduce litigation and inheritance taxation.
If you have desired to write your will but don’t know how to get started, follow the step-by-step procedure highlighted in this article to begin writing your will. It doesn’t mean that you are going to die soon. That’s superstitious! If you need to ask any questions, you can send us a mail.