Family Contingency Plans - Accounts and Wills

I'll share a personal story. Some of you may know that our trip to Nigeria was mostly for my father in law's burial. My FIL was a lawyer and had had a Will. In it, he had described where and how he wanted to be buried. My MIL and his sons knew this, and this made the period of his passing as well as the plans for his funeral relatively fuss-free.

My mother attended the burial and afterwards called a family meeting to get a firm directive from my dad on his final wishes and also to let us, the children, know of hers. She had been very impressed by the calm demeanor of my MIL and she wanted the same if that eventuality came to pass for her.

Of course I championed the meeting, I had been asking my parents to write Wills for sometime. Prevention they say is better than cure. It is better to look for a black goat before the darkness of night comes. A woman whose husband has just died should be able to grieve peacefully and not be worrying over her and her children's well-being or worse, scheming and conniving to ensure in-laws don't deprive her of what is her's by right.

So that was why I replied, "Forget about women contorting themselves into scheming, dishonest people just to scrape by as widows. The men are the ones we need to talk to, they should make their wills, and treat their wives as partners by putting their names on property and bank accounts." on a Bellanaija post “Tragedy Contingency Plan”- Is This A Must-Have For Every Woman?

In the post , the writer narrated a few stories of widows she had known, young and old, who had their dead husband's properties or estate stolen from them by the man's family. Some of the comments before mine listed similar stories too. Those kinds of stories are always heart breaking, but sometimes they leave me a bit angry too because of the angle the writer usually diverges to.

The suggestion/advice/modus operandi being pushed by the writers of these sorts of articles, and those who think this is the best they can do as women, or advise their fellow women to do, is usually that widows need to do their grieving with one eye open, and in a show of one-upmanship, be the first to hideaway documents relating to property owned by their late husbands. I don't want to say steal-away, though it almost sounds like that.

So what do I think is the way to go to?

I think contingency plans should not be made at the point a husband is dead, but while he is still alive so that his wishes are also considered in the way his property is disbursed.

In as much as I'm sure most men want to have their immediate family well taken care of, it is not unreasonable that he may want somethings to go his parents if they survive him, or to his siblings. Especially if he made regular remittances to them while he was alive.

There is also the issue of what if both couples pass at the same time? What if they had children? Wouldn't you want to have a say in who takes care of them?

My own suggestion is largely to the men because I believe most of the onus is on them. But the women are also concerned because marriage is a partnership.

You should both have regular discussions about worst-case scenarios as a couple, starting from pre-marriage. After the honeymoon, have a one-off appointment with a lawyer and have last Wills drawn up, both husband and wife. If possible and necessary, let close family members know about the Wills, though there's no need to disclose the contents. Then yearly or every three years, update the Will with your most recent situation - children, new investments, property, dead parents, etc.

The second contingency plan is the bank accounts. Have a joint account for the family use. Each spouse may have their personal accounts but all accounts relating to the household should be joint with both spouses being signatory. There is a small clause you must ensure your bankers take note of. The account should have a survivorship clause and the wife should be made a clear beneficiary in the case of death.

A lot of people find it morbid discussing death while they're still young, and the thought of discussing Wills with a lawyer is like nails in their coffin. But come on, it's not that bad. Especially if you believe you'll be in heaven after here, or you'll be here till rapture or the singularity :)

Who else has their wills made, and what other contingency plans can couples make in preparation for tragedy?