BY CHISOM NWATU
The importance of estate planning took the spotlight recently and Nigerian women have been told that it is a vital aspect of contemporary society in the quest to secure their wealth, the future of their loved ones and ensure financial independence.
Funmi Ekundayo, chief executive officer, STL Trustees Limited, detailed this position in a presentation on “Women and Wills” at the maiden edition of the International Women’s Day celebration of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), Nigeria Council, tagged ‘SPE’s Women Leadership Lecture Series’.
Ekundayo said the stereotype that writing wills or any form of estate plan signifies negative emotion had made several people reluctant about it, although it is one of the most important ways one can secure the future of their loved ones.
“Obviously, no one wants to die. But the truth of the matter is that death does not give any warning. As unpleasant or as emotional as this subject matter might be, the reality is that everyone that is of adult age or that has started acquiring property or that has the responsibility for other people must start thinking about it. It usually takes a lot of courage to do this but having that peace of mind that your loved ones will not have to suffer or be stranded is the reason we are having this kind of discussion,” she explained.
Ekundayo noted that the popular mentality of people saying they will do it when they are old, or that estate planning is for the wealthy, is the single biggest misconception about estate planning that needed to be clarified.
“Everyone needs an estate plan irrespective of background, age, marital status, or income. For young families, an estate plan helps care for the children, per adventure anything happens to the parents. While for single older individuals it details health wishes should any harm or illness prevent you from making decisions for yourself,” Ekundayo said.
Estate planning entails the transferring of assets from one generation to the other through various legal tools, like wills, trusts, among others.
On some assertions and myths about having an estate plan, Ekundayo said: “There are many stories of siblings’ bitter squabbles in situations where there is no guidance of any type from a breadwinner that has passed on.
“Also, there are situations where several banks and other financial institutions have hundreds of dormant accounts and other forms of investments running into billions of naira belonging to deceased customers and clients. A lot of times when people refuse to have an estate plan, their families may, unfortunately, not even be aware that they have such wealth tucked away across different financial institutions.
“The issue of unclaimed dividends is also there. A lot of times when people refuse to have an estate plan, they leave such wealth with banks and companies where they have investments while their families struggle financially after the breadwinners are gone, not knowing that their breadwinners left something that could help them to continue to carry on financially with their lives. Then you should ask yourself if it is worth it to say “things will take care of themselves after I’m gone?” she said.
And on the notion or myth of being too young to have an estate plan, the CEO advised that it is better to write your will when you’re still young and mentally alert.
“The truth about life is that no one is promised tomorrow. It is better to write your will and plan your estate when you’re still young and mentally fit to do so,” she said, stressing that wills are more susceptible to being contested when there is any iota of indication that the testator lacked the mental capacity as at the time of writing a will or making other testamentary wishes.
Ekundayo affirmed that, “No one is too young to have a will or draw up an estate plan.”