Many Nigerians have a misconceived impression about making Wills. When asked if he/she has a will, their ready response is usually “do you wish me dead, why do i need a will?”. Such statements are actually proof of ignorance, as preparing a will does not in any way add or remove a day from anyone’s life. Others however have many questions about wills and their validity usually because they may currently be beneficiaries in a will or are contesting the provisions of a will in court. This article aims to shed more light on Wills in general.
A WILL simply helps a person to determine what happens to his properties after his death; it also helps him to give any instructions he may wish to be carried out if he is no longer alive.
In Nigeria, a will could either be oral or written, oral wills being wills made by word of mouth are recognised under our customary or indigenous laws while written wills are governed by law and statutes. We will focus on written Wills.
In preparing a will, a testator (person making his will) must have capacity to do so, meaning he must be of legal age (above 18yrs) and have mental capacity (he must be of sound mind). Furthermore, for a will to be valid it must be;
1. In writing. (either typed or hand written)
2. Signed by the testator, and
3. The signature of the testator must be acknowledged by at least 2 witnesses (pls note, it is advised that a beneficiary to a will must not act as a witness to the will).
In probate courts today, there are many parties in legal battles contesting the provisions of a will, the court is likely to set aside a will if there is conclusive proof that the testator did not have the mental capacity to understand what he was doing at the time the will was made or if the testator was unduely influenced to dispose of his properties as he did in the will.
A person who dies without making a will is described as a person who died intestate, in such situations, certain mambers of the family shall apply to the probate registry of the High Court to be granted letters of administration of the deceased’s estate.
Adedunmade Onibokun Esq.