Thursday, September 6, 2012

Family Contingency Plans - Accounts and Wills

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I'll share a personal story. Some of you may know that our trip to Nigeria was mostly for my father in law's burial. My FIL was a lawyer and had had a Will. In it, he had described where and how he wanted to be buried. My MIL and his sons knew this, and this made the period of his passing as well as the plans for his funeral relatively fuss-free.

My mother attended the burial and afterwards called a family meeting to get a firm directive from my dad on his final wishes and also to let us, the children, know of hers. She had been very impressed by the calm demeanor of my MIL and she wanted the same if that eventuality came to pass for her.

Of course I championed the meeting, I had been asking my parents to write Wills for sometime. Prevention they say is better than cure. It is better to look for a black goat before the darkness of night comes. A woman whose husband has just died should be able to grieve peacefully and not be worrying over her and her children's well-being or worse, scheming and conniving to ensure in-laws don't deprive her of what is her's by right.

So that was why I replied, "Forget about women contorting themselves into scheming, dishonest people just to scrape by as widows. The men are the ones we need to talk to, they should make their wills, and treat their wives as partners by putting their names on property and bank accounts." on a Bellanaija post “Tragedy Contingency Plan”- Is This A Must-Have For Every Woman?

In the post , the writer narrated a few stories of widows she had known, young and old, who had their dead husband's properties or estate stolen from them by the man's family. Some of the comments before mine listed similar stories too. Those kinds of stories are always heart breaking, but sometimes they leave me a bit angry too because of the angle the writer usually diverges to.

The suggestion/advice/modus operandi being pushed by the writers of these sorts of articles, and those who think this is the best they can do as women, or advise their fellow women to do, is usually that widows need to do their grieving with one eye open, and in a show of one-upmanship, be the first to hideaway documents relating to property owned by their late husbands. I don't want to say steal-away, though it almost sounds like that.

So what do I think is the way to go to?

I think contingency plans should not be made at the point a husband is dead, but while he is still alive so that his wishes are also considered in the way his property is disbursed.

In as much as I'm sure most men want to have their immediate family well taken care of, it is not unreasonable that he may want somethings to go his parents if they survive him, or to his siblings. Especially if he made regular remittances to them while he was alive.

There is also the issue of what if both couples pass at the same time? What if they had children? Wouldn't you want to have a say in who takes care of them?

My own suggestion is largely to the men because I believe most of the onus is on them. But the women are also concerned because marriage is a partnership.

You should both have regular discussions about worst-case scenarios as a couple, starting from pre-marriage. After the honeymoon, have a one-off appointment with a lawyer and have last Wills drawn up, both husband and wife. If possible and necessary, let close family members know about the Wills, though there's no need to disclose the contents. Then yearly or every three years, update the Will with your most recent situation - children, new investments, property, dead parents, etc.

The second contingency plan is the bank accounts. Have a joint account for the family use. Each spouse may have their personal accounts but all accounts relating to the household should be joint with both spouses being signatory. There is a small clause you must ensure your bankers take note of. The account should have a survivorship clause and the wife should be made a clear beneficiary in the case of death.

A lot of people find it morbid discussing death while they're still young, and the thought of discussing Wills with a lawyer is like nails in their coffin. But come on, it's not that bad. Especially if you believe you'll be in heaven after here, or you'll be here till rapture or the singularity :)

Who else has their wills made, and what other contingency plans can couples make in preparation for tragedy?


  1. This is the truth, i mean reality and eyeopener.

  2. I really advise couples to open an account for their children. Immediately they are born, and every month put a little money into the account, this way when the children grow or something happens to both parents, the children would have something to fall back on.
    AS for making your wife a partner I second that.
    I was in a bank one day and a man was filling an account opening form, he was married quit alright and I could tell from his ring, when he got to beneficiary, he put a man's name and then relationship to the man "brother".
    Hia! How in the world can you put your brother's name as your beneficiary biko nu? the woman that helped you to make the money nko? If you didnt trust her, why marry her in the first place? it is so unreasonable!

    1. Not every woman helped her husband make the money, you know? How do you know if his wife married him for his money and he is quite aware of that fact. Even in societies where women automatically inherit their husband's estate, there is a reason why the pre-nup is so common.
      Some men grew up with the my brother as my next-of-kin mentality while some have a relative next-of-kin simply because they know what their wife is capable of e.g. poisoned tea. So they are like even if she kills me, she has to fight for the money.

    2. really? my question is this, if you cant trust her, why did you marry her in the first place?

  3. I couldn't agree less with this. Plans are really important for dependants in the end. I have heard a number of people say that by age 30, an individual must have written their first will. I guess that's why it's called "rest in peace". People should also be allowed to continue with their lives even when a loved one has passed on & not have to defend what they know as theirs.

  4. Very great advice, yes wills and plans should be put in place, but there are some family members, who wil try to steal from the family despite these wills and legal backings. For this reason, every woman should have an after death contingency plan for in laws that decide to "feel cute"

  5. I'm all for wills o cos the way some things/people change after someone dies is amazing. Once you get married, write a will. EVen before you get married, write a will depending on how your family is structured. Some people may just be waiting to rip you poor mother or father off.

  6. i am all for writing a will, and putting the wife's name as well on their properties and joint accounts.

  7. I feel every person with property (including clothes) should have a will. Every person with a dependent MUST imo have a life insurance plan. In marriage man and wife should keep no secrets, both parties should know everything about each other so in time of tragedy there are no unpleasant suprises.

  8. I do have a will, it was rather necessary because I have a life insurance policy so I had to figure out who to give all that money if death came calling. My dad had always been meticulous (he is an accountant, lol) about things like that and has all his assets split between my mum and my siblings (co-signatory). So I figured I wasn't too young to make plans either. So since I'm still pseudo-single, I named my girlfriend and my 2 nieces as beneficiaries to my assets. I figure that if I love my gf that much, I can trust her with my money, so I do want her to be happy if I pass away (no Pearl Harbor moves, lol). Well, I'm hoping that my girlfriend 'grows' into my wife in the near future, so then I'll leave everything to her. I'm not planning to die anytime soon sha, so everybody go wait, lol.

  9. Myne I responded thus to you on the bellanaija post - You forget that we live in a society where the law is not always enforced. I have seen situations where even though the man left a will, the man’s relatives dealt with the widow sufficiently enough that she gave them everything and ran for her life. They dealt with her emotionally, physically, humiliated her, spread rumors etc.

    There is nothing wrong with women hiding away stuff - how can you STEAL AWAY what belongs to you anyways?

    1. My reply to that would be; Why would you hide away stuff that belongs to you anyways? It is either you outright own the stuff and it is already in your name. Otherwise, if you cannot get your husband to gift and put your name on his property, or your joint property, then it is not yours. Legally, anyways.


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