Funmi Ekundayo, the Managing Director/CEO of STL Trustees Limited, has advised Nigerian women on the need to plan their estates to help ensure financial independence, protect their wealth, and also secure the future of their loved ones.

Speaking recently on the topic “Women and Wills” at the maiden edition of the International Women’s Day Celebration of Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Nigeria Council, tagged SPE’s Women Leadership Lecture Series, Ekundayo said, “Most people are reluctant to discuss will writing or any form of estate planning because of the stereotype that discussing same connotes negative emotions. However, it is one of the most important ways by which people can secure the future of their loved ones.”

Estate planning is the process of transferring assets from one generation to the other through various legal tools such as Wills, Trusts, etc.

“Of course, 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 further explained.

 

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Reacting to whether a woman should have a will or an estate plan, she said the role of women in families is irreplaceable.  “Whether as a mother, wife, or daughter, women are usually the caregivers of families, and having an estate plan is probably the most important way they can secure the future of their loved ones. This is especially true for women who today are stakeholders in family wealth and who also have their own businesses and careers. They should take the right step to secure their wealth and make sure it is passed on to their rightful heirs and beneficiaries,” she noted.

Also, debunking some of the common myths surrounding estate planning such as the assertion that having an estate plan is not important or that things will take care of themselves after the owner of the assets is gone, she pointed out that our society is replete with stories of families that have been torn apart by disagreements over how a loved one’s assets should be distributed, noting, “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”

Other common estate planning myths she discussed include: “I will do it when I am old” and “only the wealthy need an estate plan”.

“Thinking that estate planning is only for the wealthy is the single biggest misconception about estate planning. While it may sound like something for the “rich and famous,” everyone needs an estate plan, regardless of income, age, or marital status. Even those with modest means still have assets like their homes, personal effects, and other possessions that must be distributed. For young families, an estate plan answers questions about who will care for your children per-adventure both parents pass on. For single or older individuals, an estate plan details health care wishes should injury or illness prevents you from making decisions for yourself,” she explained.

Speaking about the notion or myth of being too young to have an estate plan, she 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 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. She concluded by affirming that, “No one is too young to have a will or draw up an estate plan”.

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