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Ask Shade About Trusts: My Late Father’s Family Head Wants to Give the Family House to Our Irresponsible Half-Brother

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Ask Shade

Dear Shade,
I came across a few of your previous articles and I am hopeful that you will be able to help with my dilemma. I am the first child of my father who recently passed away. He had two wives and five children; one son and four daughters including me. My mother, his first wife had only daughters, while his second wife had a boy and a girl.

Besides my half-brother who has not been able to progress academically, we are all relatively successful in our careers and academics. My father did not have a will, so the family head is going to distribute the inheritance and he is about to give everything to my half-brother, the first and only son, in the name of tradition.

My brother is young and hardly responsible, my sisters and mum also feel cheated. I am worried that my half-brother will mismanage everything my father worked for. Is there anything I can do to ensure the inheritance is distributed among us all? Does tradition still count in this day and age? He left us houses, land, pension fund and cash in his bank account.
Ivie, from Edo state.
**
Hello Ivie,
Please accept my condolences on the passing of your father. Dealing with the loss of a close relative is never easy. The extra burden of sorting and distributing properties left behind can also be very stressful, especially when the deceased did not have a will.

When a person dies without a will, the intestacy rules, native laws and customs and religious rules of the deceased determine the succession of his properties (also known as “Estate”).

To determine which law would be applied, it would also be important to consider your father’s State of Origin. If your father was a Benin man (which I presume) subject to the customs of the Benin tradition, the law requires that the eldest surviving son would be entitled to the family house where your father lived after the performance of the second burial ceremonies while the remaining properties may be distributed amongst the remaining children.

In this scenario, your brother being the eldest son of your father may be entitled to your father’s family house, whilst the remaining of your father’s assets would be distributed amongst the you and all siblings.

Kindly note however that although the traditions may be adopted for the distribution of your father’s assets, those traditions must not on the basis of your gender, violate your rights. Based on a recently decided Supreme Court case, the rights of female children to inherit their parents’ properties was supported, and the Igbo tradition that disinherits female children was found no longer applicable. This means that where the local traditions are in any way contrary to your rights, they would be invalid in effecting the distribution of your father’s assets.

It is important that you strive to maintain family unity in your resolution. Perhaps a family meeting where the distribution process is clearly discussed and agreed upon by concerned persons would help. If you consider it necessary, you could employ the services of a lawyer to guide you on the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on inheritance, especially as it affects women.

This situation and the accompanying hassle could easily have been avoided if your father had a will. It is important that you take a learning from this and as such commence planning your estate in good time.

Folashade has a wealth of experience in legal structuring, capital markets, and financing transactions. Her expertise also spans Private Trust, and other succession/estate planning alternatives. Currently, she is Managing Director of ARM Trustees Limited, a subsidiary of the ARM Group charged with asset protection, wealth transfer and generally, succession and estate planning.

19 Comments

  1. Momo

    November 29, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    The only son failed to pull his weight because he was raised with the “only Nigerian son syndrome.”…full of self entitlement…mtchewwww

    • Lala

      November 29, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      I tell you ?. Watch him squander his father’s hard won assets and then start disturbing his sisters for money in a couple of years.

      Can we also talk about how irresponsible it is to not have a will? I will never understand why people past a certain age in this day and age still stubbornly refuse to make plans for their estate

  2. hmmm

    November 29, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I have a feeling that if the father had written a will,he would still leave everything to his son only.

  3. Three Oscars

    November 29, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    So sorry about your situation.
    If it were me sha (and some may say it’s easier said than done), as the oldest, I would feel very pained about everything but I wouldn’t drag my Father’s properties with anyone. I would go through this phase/season, prayerfully.
    However, I would learn from my Father’s errors and take steps to ensure this does not happen with my own Children. Meaning: I am going to work very hard to sort each of my own Children out, God being my help.
    Pick your battles wisely.

  4. slice

    November 29, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Where is the paperwork for the house and other assets. Does the family head have ? If so, you need to hire a lawyer asap before the things start disappearing. At least get the court to stop any sales until issues are resolved. What about the wives. If he leaves all to the son, what will your mother get. Get a lawyer

  5. Uchechi Opara

    November 29, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I agree with you @ hmmm

  6. Loki

    November 29, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Very Very dicey situation. The courts recognise customary law and customary law of Benin dictates that property goes to males. Women do not traditionally inherit property unless there is an actual will or the property is bequeathed as a gift inter vivos. Yes, there may be a new case overturning precedent but at the end of the day. you are going to need a very good lawyer to solve this for you. But first, apply for letters of administration from your local probate. You can take it from there.
    Oh and forget peace. There is no way this property will be shared and you and your half brother will share a cold beer afterward. I know enough about Benin culture to know that someone may lose their life over this.
    One last piece of advice which you may or may not take, depending on your proclivities: you’re going to need to pray like you’ve never prayed before. 99.9% of “jazz/juju” related deaths in Benin are property related..

    • John

      November 29, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      I have to agree with u on that ..when I saw from EDO state…all I said was may the strongest spiritually wins…my hand no dey this one……but that being said …I find it hard to digest at the way she bashed her step -brother and paint him as useless which I very much doubt bcos I will never trust anything that comes out of the mouth of a woman expecially in a broken home like that where accusations will be flyongbup and down..I bet if u asked someone neutral, they will tell u they are all succesfull oloshos from italy ( wait!!..on second thought, she may be right at them being successful in their careers)….. I agree with @hmmm if the father was to write a will.. he will still give it to his son( bcos I think that is the reason he even married a 2nd wife) and that is his right….life will be lost,that is for sure if she decides to be stubborn.. anyway, may the strongest win and my bet is on the son..he already has the backing of the elders.

    • hmm

      November 29, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      actually it is now illegal to disinherit women of property. Under Jonathan’s administration. Rule of law prevails (ie supremacy of the constitution). She can sue, and she should win

    • Loki

      November 29, 2017 at 8:46 pm

      @John, I’d explain to you why your response is stupid but I’ve brushed my teeth for the night and trying to reason with you leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Goodnight baby.

    • John

      November 29, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      @hmmm …You still do not get it , do you?

      @loki Lol….but Goodnight to you too

  7. nene

    November 29, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I agree with hmmn and three Oscars.
    I will not be surprised that the man may have intentionally left his property for his son after the order of the tradition because a lot of our fathers are quite traditional in teh approach.

    Having said that like three Oscar said since you are successful why are you bothered about the house. Fix your mother and continue living. even if he mismanages the estate its okay, the man who owned it has left do not let them kill another person over it again. Just let it go and probably pray from afar.

    Yes its easier said than done because even now in my father’s lifetime I am suspecting that my sister has eyes for his house and I am already thinking of how to ensure my father writes a will because I know she will fight dirty if she wants it and i fear for sibling squabble but then what if our father did not build any house?

    these things can be painful but life must go on.

  8. Engoz

    November 29, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    It beats me why women are surprised when properties automatically goes to the males. Were you living in an alternate universe? Lol.

    Let’s discuss…
    So males devised a system to protect their sons future at the expense of their daughters. This enables female poverty in the long run. And this systematic inheritance fraud will not stop any time soon. I want women to start thinking about securing their daughters future. I have always asked myself what do Nigerian women use their money to do in a country where the women swear on their butt cheek that men must be breadwinners despite the fact they are working? If we save this money, buy landed properties, will it to our daughters, put some pride on womanhood. Most women in domestic violence situations cite having nowhere to go that’s why they stay. Men typically own the house in Nigeria anyway and can kick you out at the drop of a hat. Our generation will just have to suffer the consequences of being ‘woke’ late, but our daughters don’t have to.

    As for the lady in question, it will take the Almighty God to come down and redeem you from this case. My sincere condolences.

    • Anonymous

      November 29, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      My father did not have a will. His wife was his next of kin in everything because according to him, she was who he worked for. He however told my mum how to disburse property upon her death.

      I know my sister and I have property on the Island: He wanted to build us a house each but life happened. He told my mother to hand it to us on our wedding day with strict instruction that we cannot sell the land or use it for anything that is not solely for us. Our husbands have no access or right to the properties too. My mum needs to ensure this is done legally (please lawyers advise if this is possible).

      My dad called the land our walk away money. He said once we know we have prime property to fall back on, we won’t accept abuse from anyone.

      I will build a house for my daughters as vex money same way my dad left property for me

    • Interesting

      November 29, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      Oshee Engoz the chief conspiracy theorists.

    • hmm

      November 29, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      (Sorry to perch on your comment). A lot of Igbo women I know are doing this. Some Igbo men also hand over their daughter’s inheritance to their daughters before he dies. Maybe when the girl is of a certain age, when she gets married etc. I am angry that people are telling her to let it go. Everytime, let it go pray about it etc. That is how women will be praying 40 years for a cheating spouse and he will only stop at 80 when he’s too sick to function. Nonetheless, I’m sure that if she gives it to him, he will run it all down. That may be what the man’s family want. When he dies mysteriously, because he is irresponsible no one will look too much into it, then they will take over. Irresponsible and wicked people. But every Nigerian is suddenly religious when homosexuality and ‘man is the head’ come up.

    • Engoz

      November 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      @interesting

      That actually made me laugh. ???

      @hmmm
      That is great.

  9. Midday Cana

    November 29, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    As someone from the same state who is in a similar situation except, I am male and there is a will but I am not the eldest I can tell you this for sure. Your father’s property does not determine your future. You can walk away from this whole mess with your mum and siblings and most likely end up wealthier and with peace of mind. The Lord hate’s “unequal scales”: This means that whenever a human being or group of humans are on the unfavorable side of any deal that leaves them out of pocket God re-balances the equation.

    I have taken a back seat in the affairs of my late dads estate and yet the ones who are fighting over it are not half as blessed as I am. I will say it again your fathers wealth is less than a grain of sand in the stable of God’s wealth. Have it at the back of your mind that God has capacity to even out the scores to the point that when your irresponsible brother finally sells his father’s asset (cos that is probably what will happen) you will be the one to pay him off and hand over the asset to your long suffering mother.

    I say so because that is the nature of our God and that is what He can do. Selah!

  10. Theresa Bande

    December 11, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I’m sure ARM should be able to help here, or is it too late already? Surely we shouldn’t have to wait till blood sucking relatives displace our families. My opinion, put everything in order now.

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