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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Your Will & Mine… Because ‘ELKAFT’

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I got on a plane last week… and I was terrified. The closer I got to the door of the aircraft, the more I felt a cold draft of fear – acute and intense fear – go through me. The first thing I did when I got into the plane was look in the direction of the cockpit – as if for some sign that I was going to be okay. As I fastened my seatbelt and stowed my bags away, I thought, “Girl, what was that about? I thought you stopped being afraid of death 5 years ago?”

The month of March is a particularly difficult one for me. Every day from the 17th to the 26th , I find myself rehashing and re-living the process of my brother’s accident, death and funeral. The utter and sheer unexpectedness of it all is still very hard to grasp; and as the years have rolled on, I have taught myself that death WILL come, whether I want it to or not. I also know that neither me, nor my household is immune from the randomness and the scythe of The Grim Reaper.

Who’s to say you’re not going to get on a plane with a depressed pilot in the cockpit? How do you know that you’re not going to be standing at Cele bus stop when a drunken tanker driver goes off the hinge? What are the odds that you’ll wake up tomorrow?

Before you mutter ‘It’s not my portion’, you have to remember, ‘ Eyan Le Ku Any F**king Time’ (ELKAFT) – translated to mean “A person can die at any frigging time”. ELKAFT is something that we all need to be aware of, consequently, we need to pay attention to some things, like planning for when you’re no longer around.

As Nigerians, deeply steeped in eternal faith based optimism, we don’t really put a lot of stock in having proper documentation in preparation for death. Every time I talk to someone about having a will, they smile and say “I’m not going anywhere yet. I shall live to declare…” The lawyer in me keeps wondering what that even means.

Family law and law of Succession were arguably my favourite courses in Unilag. Between Professor Uzodike, and Mr. Tunde Oni, I was well inculcated into the advocacy of having a last will and testament. We had a lot of interesting cases of family wars started as a result of intestacy. Interestingly, a lot of notable intestate cases involved lawyers. Like chain-smoking doctors, the world is full of intestate lawyers

While having a will doesn’t necessarily make all your problems disappear, it helps a lot. At least you know there’s a document to be followed in sharing your assets when you’re gone. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Forgive me. With a will, you know that your children are provided for and your debts are paid off (You don’t want your creditors cussing you out on the way to the Pearly Gates now, do ya?)

Atoke CheeriosSo, I asked my friend, Alfino, when he thinks the best time to start thinking of a will is, and he responded “When you get married.” His wife added a modifier stating, “If you have dependents, then you should start thinking of a will.” We then went on to talk about some utterly murky situations created by intestacy.
Essentially, it’s about making provision for those you love and care about. For the sake of argument, I asked what it should matter how people left behind deal with themselves. After all, you won’t be there, so why should it matter? We concluded that the messiness created from improper planning usually does more harm than good.

We talked about a wealthy Nigerian family whose dying patriarch called his children together in one room, declared his assets and told everybody what was due to them. He asked anybody with any dissatisfaction to speak up or forever hold their peace. Nobody was going to be allowed to sully his name after his death. There has been no news of family squabbles. I like this style.

In another family, the patriarch knew he was dying and he left a will. Then a new mysterious will surfaced. Let’s just say lawyers have been cashing out from that mess.

There’s something about the idea of free money, and free property that makes people go crazy. Even the nicest siblings start fighting over bungalow in Maryland, land in Osapa London, town house in Mayfair. You imagine a family unit is the closest you’ve ever seen, and then a super valuable piece of real estate comes into contention and suddenly the claws come out.

Cultural nuances and dynamics don’t also make planning your estate easier. The question of what law should govern your succession process comes into play. If you have a will, and you’re a notable traditionalist – living your life fully according to the dictates of customs and traditions – it becomes more difficult to apply the specifics of a will. Disgruntled parties would argue that the will, drafted under the Act is invalid as you lived as a traditionalist and your estate should be divided accordingly.

Some estate battles become so bitter and protracted that one begins to wonder about whether anything in life itself is worth fighting for. There’s nothing sadder than having the memory of a loved one coloured by the messiness of money disputes.

It’s never too early to start talking to a lawyer or a financial advisor about planning your estate. And no, having a will isn’t the exclusive right of rich people. Read up about it, make preparations and plan for your future; because… well…ELKAFT!

Have a lovely week ahead. Make a conscious effort to promote positivity, and peace. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Go out of your way to make someone smile today. Life is too short to let strife and bitterness overwhelm you. Give. Share. Hug.

Peace, love & carrot batons.

***
To the loving memory of the lives lost on the capsized boat on the way from Epe on Saturday.
To the friends and family of Muheez Bello.
I pray for comfort for your bleeding hearts.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

20 Comments

  1. @edDREAMZ

    March 30, 2015 at 9:47 am

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    My frnd that always say “God forbid” that he is never going to die any tym soon that God has created him to fullfill his destiny as if God gave him a written note that he is immune to death needs to see this…..
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  2. Toma

    March 30, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Weldone Atoke, I have also often wondered why nigerians like to fool themselves. We act like death is an option. Good people die early, while mean people appear to live longer sef, bottom line, be realistic and responsible. I loved Family Law back then too, mistresses and siblings killing themselves over property, but we need to learn from all those sometimes hilarious cases that we should not make same mistakes. ELKAFT is soooo funny but true. Have a great day Everyone!

  3. Solape

    March 30, 2015 at 10:07 am

    You are very right Atoke, i lost a very close friend of mine some weeks back and she was laid to rest last week Tuesday and I’ve not been able to grasp her death till now, she developed cold on Sunday after church went to the hospital Monday morning, and she died 1:20 am on Tuesday all this happened within 24hrs, I have regrets now that we were not so close as we were in our school days and laws school, i felt like calling her on Sunday before the incident and i just procrastinated. Now she’s gone to be with the Lord just like that. So we should always appreciate and create time for the people in our lives.

  4. Rukamina

    March 30, 2015 at 10:11 am

    ELKAFT.

  5. anonymous

    March 30, 2015 at 10:13 am

    My Father just put my mum as next of Kin and with each property he bought, he told her what to do with them. Apparently, the girls get their lands on their wedding day ( the caveat is that it will forever be in their name as their property; my father never believed in a woman doing OUR property) and the boys get property after my mum dies. My father believed they should make their own money ( talk about an Igbo man, only women should be cuddled/pampered, the men should work).

  6. nammy

    March 30, 2015 at 10:28 am

    ELKAFT, sad but true reality.

  7. Neo

    March 30, 2015 at 10:41 am

    ELKAFT! In a sense I guess what happens to your property or to your body after you die is of no concern to you. I will leave a one liner will stating where and how I am to be buried. Lagos this is cause i believe i made my best memories here, I see my spirit taking strolls outside that Atan cemetery (if there’s still space there, let me go and buy a plot) Going to Unilag, attending some lectures, going to sniff QSS suya and jumping cabs to Silverbird!

    On a serious note though, if you’re young and seemingly invincible, you may not have to go all out and make a will. You can type out an email to a close friend and call it a “just in case” leave specifics as to how you want things done and maybe a note with all the things “you never could say”. When your immediate family comes in, husband/wife and kids, call a lawyer! Start a trust fund for your kids.

  8. Queen of Everything

    March 30, 2015 at 11:37 am

    I am not afraid of death, not that I intend or plan to die soon – not that it’s ever really planned.
    All I hope is that when the time comes, it will be quick and painless and at God’s time.

  9. Olori Tari

    March 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Eyan Le Ku Any F*n Time! Been my motto since that time it trended!

    Let me read ^

  10. www.idolorsdomain.com

    March 30, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    The statistics of death are amazing: one in one person will die…eventually.

  11. D

    March 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Start making a will once you have anything to will away…You don’t have to wait till you have a ring on your finger…You want whatever you have to be dispensed exactly the way you want it, because I am dead does not mean I want one uncle that i never saw for once in my life or was never a part of my life coming to fight my mother or niece or anyone else for something that i want going to them. I do not have a will though but all my investments have people that they will be going to as primary and secondary beneficiaries and they know exactly what i want done with said $$$ should death come knocking. I hope and pray not anytime soon though…

    • TA

      March 30, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      My exact thoughts D! Don’t wait to get married to write a will. I believe you should have a Will once you start working. Tell you a story I once heard, guy meets a girl during SITP (Shell’s internship but not running anymore) and he loved her madly. Girl was just a young graduate from a struggling background (babe even used to sell clothes and make hair to pay her way through school) and so his family who are middle-class and from a different tribe did not think she was good enough for their son. Unfortunately guy died in a road accident. His babe was heartbroken, few months later his siblings who are his next of Kin discover he has about 5 million cash in his account. His precious babe of 2 years did not get a dime. Even the cheque for almost N1m he gave her shortly before he died to pay for a shop for her saloon in PH was not honoured as his siblings had stopped all payment from the account. The guy’s cousin who told me the story said even his parents and siblings knew that if he had written a Will the babe would definitely have gotten something. That was how much he obviously cared for her. Me I learnt my lesson from the story:,do not wait to be married before you write a Will. Write one as soon as you have your own money or assets.

  12. S!

    March 30, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    I want to be cremated when I die. I can’t stand the thoughts of my body decaying & dumped 6 feet under. In my village that ppl don’t respect graves (would sweep dirt & leave it by someone’s grave. if they try it with me, they would receive spiritual slap) & the fact that you bury your dearest ones in the village & hardly ever visit the village or them. Please cremate me and keep me inside our house. IF you are moving, you pack me with you.

    But do Nigerian tribes support cremation?

  13. Abster

    March 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    This personally resonates with me. A friend and I got into an argument and I didn’t speak to him for months. His mantra was “Life is short”, and so he lived his life to the fullest. Well his life was cut short and he was taken away from me. I cried for weeks, because we never even got to reconcile. It still hurts when I think about it, so yes Atoke, I feel you… Just make peace with everyone, as much as possible, though difficult….

  14. Sabifok

    March 30, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Nice piece Atoke. Preparing a will is important, and often overlooked. My 2 kobo is thus:

    Do not just prepare your will, but prepare your family as well. Have a discussion with your spouse and kids about the “b” words. Not the birds and the bees, but about bank and bucks. Show them where your property is, discuss key business decisions with your spouse so that he/she is in the know, do not hide away your safe combinations, or crucial documentation like cheque books, share certificates, certificates of occupancy etc from your family. This could come back to haunt them, if you died suddenly. How your family copes after their provider passes is crucial.

  15. babygiwa

    March 30, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Sigh. ELKAFT.

  16. elvissaysso

    March 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    This article is very movin nd I just had 2 liv a comment.Atoke so so sori 4 ur loss.Truth is I don”t knw hw u feel or felt bcos I hav neva lost sum1 I rily luved 2 death nd as I say dis my heart cringes in fear of d unknown,fear dat mayb my life is perfect aftall nd dat dis perfection wld oneday probably soon turn 2 bitterness.I am rily scared

    • ACE

      March 30, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Dear Elvissaysso, You took the words write outta my mouth!!! But idolorsdomain.com aptly captured when (s)he said “The statistics of death are amazing: one in one person will die…eventually.” These days i pray for peace to accept it but most importantly to love and laugh hard with the people God has blessed me with, to create sweet memories… Life is Beautiful 🙂

  17. ACE

    March 30, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    #right

  18. debmara

    April 4, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Atoke,I feel you.I lost my dad at age twelve,though no fighting and property claims anyway.I just felt he should have left a will for my brother’s.

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