I am sure at one point or another in your live, you must have filled out forms requesting you to provide the details of your next of kin. However whether this practice has any legal effect may not be well known, hence this piece.
A next of kin strictly speaking, is that person who should be contacted in the event of any eventuality such as fatal accident or death. A next of kin is not however automatically the person to inherit the property or investment in the event of death (God forbid!) as the subsequent paragraphs would show.
Under the Nigerian Pension Reform Act, every employee whether in the public or private sector, is expected to maintain a Retirement Savings Account with a pension fund administrator of choice into which a stated percentage of monthly benefits would be paid. The employer is also expected to pay a percentage of the employee’s monthly benefits to the Retirement Savings Account of the employee from the employer’s own purse that is if the employer has not elected to bear the entire financial burden of the employee’s Retirement Savings Account. Generally speaking, save for sternly regulated exceptions, an employee cannot withdraw any funds from this account before clocking 50 years old. An employer is also mandated to maintain for each employee, a life insurance policy for a minimum of three times the annual basic salary, housing and transport allowances of such employee.
Before, under the Pension Reform Act of 2004, where an employee died, his/her entitlements under the life insurance policy would be paid into his/her retirement savings account. The pension fund administrator would then pay the total amount in the account to a beneficiary under a written Will or if there was no Will, then to the spouse and children of the deceased or in the absence of a spouse and children, then to the recorded next of kin or any person designated by the deceased employee during his/her life time or in the absence of such designation, to any person appointed by the probate registry as the administrator of the estate of the deceased. Thus, it was only where the deceased had left no Will and had no spouse or children that the next of kin would become entitled to the money in the Retirement Savings Account of a deceased.
Now, the Pension Reform Act of 2014 has completely changed the position by removing reference to next of kin totally in relation to entitlement to the money in the Retirement Savings Account of a deceased. The current position is that upon receipt of a valid Will admitted to probate or a letter of administration confirming the beneficiaries under the estate of the deceased employee, the pension fund administrator will release the money in the retirement savings account of a deceased, to the personal representative of the deceased or to any other person as may be directed by the Court in accordance with the Will or personal law of the deceased employee. Entitlements under the life insurance policy maintained by the employer are to be paid to the named beneficiary in the policy, not the next of kin.
This therefore reveals that the practice where a relation or other person named as next of kin believes that by such fact, he/she becomes entitled to a deceased’s bounty is one borne out of ignorance. In today’s world particularly, where many women thrive in their respective careers and make a tidy sum of money, the fear is that a conniving husband/boyfriend who is named as a next of kin may want to make away with his woman’s bounty if God forbid, she dies pre-maturely. This fear is however unfounded since as indicated above, being named as next of kin does not automatically mean inheriting wealth. However, where the man in question is also the husband of the deceased, then this fear becomes valid but not because he was named as the next of kin.
This is because by virtue of the Administration of Estate Laws of the various Nigerian States, the order of priority for inheriting the property of a deceased who died without a will (i.e. died intestate), is the surviving spouse, the children of the deceased or the issues of any child who has predeceased the deceased, parents of the deceased, brothers and sisters of the deceased, step-brothers and step-sisters of the deceased, grandparents, uncles and aunts.
The best way for a woman to avoid the fear of an undesirable person inheriting he bounty upon death, is therefore for her to make a Will in her lifetime. Perhaps, the next issue to then be addressed in a subsequent issue, would be the legal requirements for a valid Will.
In closing, careful thought should go into selecting a next of kin not because such person is automatically the person to inherit a lady’s wealth in the event of death, but because the next of kin in most cases, would be the first person to be contacted where there are any emergencies, which when such next of kin responds speedily, may well prevent her death.
Adefolake is a lawyer with a knack for unravelling commercial issues. When she is not addressing formal legal issues, she loves gisting, music, reading, blogging, and modelling the right way to go to teenagers and young adults.