What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that communicates how you want your assets and belongings to be distributed after you die. It allows you to choose who will receive your property, money, and possessions. Without a will, your estate will be divided according to Nigerian intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes.
Some key things a will can do:
- Name executors to oversee carrying out your will
- Specify guardians for minor children
- Donate to charities
- Distribute property and possessions
- Provide funeral and burial instructions
Having a will ensures your final wishes are honored and prevents disputes among family members regarding your estate.
Requirements for a Valid Will in Nigeria
For a will to be legally valid in Nigeria, it must meet certain requirements:
- You must be 18 years or older: Minors cannot make a will under Nigerian law.
- Mental capacity: You must be of sound mind and understand what you are doing when making the will.
- Made voluntarily: You cannot be forced or pressured into making a will.
- In writing: A verbal will is not enough – the will must be put into writing and signed.
- Witnessed: The will must be signed by at least two impartial adult witnesses in the presence of the person making the will.
- Signed by testator: You must sign the will in the presence of the witnesses. If physically unable to sign, you can direct someone else to sign for you in your presence.
Failure to meet any of these requirements can render a will invalid under Nigerian law.
One important decision when writing your will is choosing executors – the people or institution that will be responsible for carrying out your wishes stated in the will. Consider the following when naming executors:
- Over 18 years old: They must be a legal adult.
- Trustworthy and responsible: As they will handle your estate, choose someone ethical, organized, and capable.
- Geographically accessible: They should be located in Nigeria to be able to efficiently administer your estate.
- Willing to serve: Speak to them first to ensure they are willing to take on this duty.
You can name alternate executors in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve. An impartial third party like a lawyer can also be appointed as executor.
Bequeathing Your Assets
The main body of your will should cover how exactly you want your assets and belongings distributed after you pass away. Here are some things to think about:
- Make a list of assets: Note down all your possessions and property – both tangible and intangible. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, jewelry, furniture, cars etc.
- Name specific beneficiaries: State exactly who should inherit each item or asset. Use full legal names.
- Alternate beneficiaries: Decide on backup beneficiaries in case the person you name dies before you.
- Gifts to minors: If giving assets to minor children, name a custodian to manage the assets till they come of age.
- Funeral arrangements: You can provide guidelines for your burial, cremation or funeral services.
- Charitable donations: Specify which charities you wish to donate money or assets to.
Make sure your instructions are clear to avoid disputes over assets later. Mention approximate values of each asset gifted.
Naming Guardians for Minors
If you have minor children, your will is crucial to name legal guardians to care for them and manage assets left for them in your absence. Consider the following when choosing guardians:
- Willingness to serve: Discuss with potential guardians before naming them.
- Parenting style: Choose someone with values and priorities aligned with yours.
- Financial stability: Select guardians capable of providing for your children.
- Relationship with child: Ideally pick someone your children know and are comfortable with.
- Age and health: They should be fit enough to care for your children until adulthood.
- Backups: Designate alternate guardians in case your first choice cannot serve.
Make sure to consult any named guardians before finalizing your will. This will ensure there is no confusion regarding your children’s future care if the unthinkable happens.
Using a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer to help draft your will has several advantages:
- Ensures your will abides by Nigerian laws and minimizes chances of being contested
- Can help customize your will to match your unique situation
- Allows you to make complex arrangements like setting up trusts
- Provides impartial advice to thoughtfully distribute estate
- Keeps your will safe until it is required and submits it for probate after your death
Even if not using a lawyer to draft the entire will, having one review the final will before signing is wise. This provides an objective eye to ensure it is airtight and legally executed.
Where to Keep Your Will
Once your will is made, it is crucial that it is stored safely but remains accessible after you pass away. Some options to consider:
- Keep the original with your lawyer if they assisted in drafting it
- Store in a safe deposit box with clear instructions on retrieval
- Keep a copy at home in a fireproof safe or locked cabinet
- Give copies to your executor or a close family member
- File it with the probate registry in your state
Wherever you keep the will, inform trusted loved ones of its location so it is easily found when required.
Updating Your Will
Life changes can necessitate updating your will. Some events that should trigger a will review:
- Marriage or divorce
- Birth or adoption of children
- Purchase of major assets
- Sale of property mentioned in the will
- Relocation to a new state or country
- A beneficiary named in your will dies
- Your executors move away or become incapacitated
- Changes in tax laws that affect your estate plan
Reviewing your will every few years, even if no major changes occur, can help avoid any complications down the line. Minor amendments can be made via a codicil – a document supplementing your will.
Cost of Writing a Will in Nigeria
The cost of writing a will in Nigeria can vary depending on if you use a lawyer vs. writing it yourself, the complexity of your estate and assets, and your location. On average, expect to pay:
- ₦50,000 – ₦150,000 for a basic will without complex instructions
- ₦150,000 – ₦300,000 for a more customized will with multiple executors, beneficiaries, and distribution of extensive assets
- Additional fees if you require trusts or tax planning
Lawyer fees tend to be on the higher end, but using one can minimize risks of errors. Even a basic will is worth the cost for the peace of mind and ease it provides your loved ones.
Writing a will gives you control over what happens to your estate upon death. While the process requires some forethought, having a plan in place provides immense peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be provided for. Be sure to periodically review and update the will so that it continues to accurately reflect your wishes. With these tips, you can craft a legally valid will in Nigeria that seamlessly carries out your final requests.