Death of spouse (1)

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With Barr. Ken Akpom 

This topic is one of those topics that most people hate hearing, but the truth is that it is an inevitable end that must come when it must come. Nobody likes to die whether rich or poor, that is why when there is danger everyone wants to escape it. In law there are two kinds of circumstances which characterize the deaths of spouses, namely Testate and Intestate; but these will be discussed later in the series.

The funniest aspect of it is that in some cases the spouses forget even their own children when running for their safety, only to remember after their escape that they have children. That is why this edition’s topic is very crucial and important to all and sundry, whether rich or poor. I once was driving around a major street in my area whichharbors some beggars which include the blind, lame and disfigured, and all of a sudden a KAI vehicle appeared and the officers started arresting the beggars nearby.

To my utmost surprise, there was pandemonium and those beggars (even the blind) started running for their safety to the extent that one of them almost put me in trouble when he ran with great speed across my moving car, but I as usual was not speeding. I thank the Lord but what struck my mind was that even these helpless destitute care about their lives. This informs our discussion in this edition.

Let me ask: who knows the exact time and how he or she will die? Also, how prepared will you be when this inevitability occurs? What becomes of all your acquisitions on earth and those you will leave behind if such occurs? Apart from the religious aspect of preparations, do you know that the Law of this our great country, Nigeria, has made adequate provisions for you to plan and execute your future intentions even after your death? Do you know that you can still be controlling, directing and speaking to the loved ones that you left behind from your grave after your death through a very simple legal act? This is the result of something you must have performed when you were alive by approaching a lawyer to advise you and prepare a WILL for you in a proper way that cannot cause problem(s) in your family after you must have died?

Come to think of it, since one is not sure of when death beckons at one’s door, it is very important to make adequate preparation in time before it comes. One of my clients is from a very rich family; the father has mansions, I mean mansions in very high brow area of Lagos State. This his father was living a flamboyant type of life that even at his old age he still befriended some young wayward ladies who had children from other men and they would come with those children to his home and he harbored them as his children but at the detriment of his legally married wife and children.

He was made by these ladies to neglect his legal and social responsibilities to his legal matrimonial family. Instead, he was facing those ladies with their ‘migrated’ children in his home. In addition, his cousins and those acclaimed relatives who wish to celebrate with his riches at his death, contributed to confuse him the more. This rich man never thought that he would soonest die at the time he did. One funny thing was that he saw his home in shambles even in his lifetime.

He lived with ‘other beautiful ladies’ more beautiful to him than the great beauty of his legally married wife and he stopped eating in his home and promised those illegal girlfriends and self acclaimed wives that both they and their children would never inherit from his wealth.

Do you know that this man was making preparations for his legal wife and children’s comfort earlier before he got entangled with those charming wayward ladies and he forgot himself and never consulted any lawyer for advice?

One faithful day, he felt some pain at the upper part of his penis and instead of visiting a specialist hospital in Nigeria or abroad, he went to a low profile hospital near his home for treatment and he was told that an operation was to be conducted on him, which he accepted, thinking that it was a minor thing. The operation was conducted but he died from it unprepared legally.

His corpse was taken secretly by his so-called relatives – the gold diggers – to his home town without the knowledge of his legal family members and buried contrary to the Marriage Act of Lagos State. Even when the legal family members, who were informed of his death by one of his numerous lady-friends who felt neglected in the scheme of benefitting from him, went home to safeguard his documents and his property at his residence, those so-called relatives and ladies conspired and invited the police who arrested them with charges of house-breaking and illegal trespassing and later released them on bail with an undertaking not to go to their ‘legitimate home’ again because they were “trouble makers”. In addition, the same set of ‘Gold-diggers’ buried this rich man without the consent of the legal family consent and shared his property to themselves. But they found it difficult to obtain ‘probate’ to collect his money in the bank. How did the legal wife and children obtain probate to collect the man’s money in the bank?

Probate is the only authority that banks in Nigeria respect when it comes to obtaining a deceased person’s money or property. More about legal implication of death will be discussed later in this series; but if your problem on this topic cannot wait till then, please call or email me or any lawyer close to you for assistance.


My father legally married my mother, but his brother took over his property after his death 

Dear Lawyer,

In one of your discussions you explained about the different forms of marriage in Nigeria but my father married my mother in both the native, church and statutory forms of marriage. He lived almost all his life in Lagos were he contracted the church and statutory marriage in 1972. Also, he worked, lived and acquired all his properties in Lagos state except one in our village before death. He obtained chieftaincy title in our village but lived all his life in Lagos. He lived with many relatives and some girlfriends later in his life. When he died, without any will, one self-acclaimed uncle with some of our village members forcefully collected my father’s corpse from my elder brother whom they intimidated, took the corpse home and buried him in a customary way without my family consent and even shared his property in Lagos among them applying Customary Law. Please, my mum and her children are confused and do not know what to do……..please advise us.

From Peterside, Benin, Edo State.

Lawyer’s Answer:

Dear Peterside,

Your situation is very unfortunate but it happened that way because your father made the mistake of believing that he controlled his life, therefore he never consulted any lawyer to assist him in planning for his family in a way that he can still be speaking and directing from his grave.

However, since he married your mother in the statutory or what is popularly known by most Nigerians as Court Marriage, and worked and lived most of his life in Lagos State before he died without a will (i.e. intestate), the Marriage Act Section 49(1) of Lagos State gives priority in order of administration of his estate to first, your mother, then you the children etc.

It is where none of you is alive that your direct uncles (fourth in the list) can come in. Hence, these uncles to the best of my knowledge as a lawyer erred in law. However, the burial ceremony can be fashioned customarily since there is no ‘Burial Act’.

Feel free to call me or any lawyer around you for more information and further advice and actions on such matters because a lawyer knows it best.


Can I make my Will now, even though I’m still a young man?

Dear Lawyer,

I am a very young man but wealthy with a lot of property. I think I still have many more years to live since I am still a young man and not married. However, I think it would be right for me to write a Will. Please, can I make my WILL now?


Henry, Abuja.

Lawyer’s Answer:

Dear Henry,

First of all, you didn’t tell me your age. Also, your marital status is not known. However, you are free to make your will at anytime you so desire if you meet up the requirements as the Law demands.

Also, it is better for you to meet a lawyer now to prepare a will for you. You can renew it at your choice at anytime. Please, contact me on my phone lines or any other lawyer around you for more details on how to go about making your Will.

Lawyer Joke 

The hangman’s noose

Judge Bean and Lawyer Bilgeworth were riding horses. They came upon an open stretch of country and noticed a hangman’s noose dangling from a tree, solemnly waving in the breeze.

“Bilgeworth,” said Judge Bean, “if that gallows had its due, where do you suppose you’d be?”

The lawyer looked at the noose. “Riding alone,” he said.

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