Immediately a person dies, all of the person’s assets are collectively referred to as his or her “estate” which is to be distributed according to the provisions of the statutory law or native law and custom except such a person has signed a valid last will or testament.
Why should you write a will?
Preparing a will gives you the opportunity of ensuring that your estate is distributed to the persons of your choice only, instead of a situation where your estate is shared in a manner over which you have no control.
If a person dies without leaving a will, such person is said to have died “intestate” and his/her estate will be distributed in accordance with (a) the Administration of Estates Laws if the person was married under the Marriage Act, (b) customary law the person was subject to if married under customary law or (c) Islamic law in the case a person married under Islamic law.
These three systems of law prescribe different principles and formulae for the inheritance and distribution of a deceased person’s estate which may not be satisfactory to the testator. One must also not forget the possible interference and negative/undesirable actions by ill-intentioned family members against the spouse and the children of the testator.
Preparing a will allows you as the testator to put some order and organization into your affairs even after you are no longer around. You are able to choose trusted persons to administer your estate and to distribute it to whoever your desire in the manner you direct.
The last will or testament
A last will or testament is a legal document that distributes your property to family and friends according to your instructions. For a will to be valid and enforceable, it must:
- be in writing
- be signed and dated by the testator (the person making the will)
- be witnessed by at least two people who must not have any interest or benefit in the estate
In the will the testator must declare:
- His/her full name
- His/her age to show that he/she is of the legal age to make a will
- That he/she has the mental capacity to dispose of his property
- That this is his/her last will and testament, revoking all previously made wills and codicils.
- That he/she is not under duress or undue influence to make the will.
A will should name personal representatives (at least 1 but not more than 4) who are to be responsible for administering the will and to generally carry out the instructions of the testator after he/she has passed on. The personal representatives are referred to as the “executors”, whose duties are to execute the testator’s wishes contained in the will regarding the managing and distribution of the estate as well as paying off debts, if any.
Friends, family and others to whom the estate is distributed to in the will are referred to as “beneficiaries”. The will can also contain the names of secondary beneficiaries if the primary beneficiaries are not alive to receive it or if they reject the gift.
The testator must sign the will in the presence of two disinterested people called the “witnesses” who must both be there at the same time. The two of them must also sign as witnesses in the presence of the testator and each other. So, the testator and the two witnesses must be present at the same time throughout the signing. It is unlawful to give any gift to either of the two witnesses in the will and any such gift will be void.
After the will has been duly signed and dated it will then be registered in the Probate Registry by the lawyer who prepared it.
[bctt tweet=”You do not have to wait until you are old before writing a will.”]
Who should write a will?
With the exception of a person who does not have the mental capacity to make decisions for himself, anyone who has assets, no matter how small, should write a will. Also, you do not have to wait until you are old before writing one.
[bctt tweet=”No matter how small your assets are, pen that will down”]
A will can also be amended at any time before a person passes away where one acquires more property, disposed of some, changed one’s mind about a gift to any person or for any other reason – once all the formalities mentioned above are observed.
[bctt tweet=”Writing a will should not be seen as an indication or invitation to death, it is simply a method of planning one’s life and affairs.”]
Writing a will should not be seen as an indication or invitation to death. It is simply a method of planning one’s life and affairs in such a manner as to give peace of mind to the family that one will leave behind.
[bctt tweet=”Making a will is one of the best investments that you can ever make. Make yours as soon as possible.”]
Making a will is one of the best investments that you can ever make.
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