Ask Shade: He Left Everything to His children From a Previous Marriage! How Do I Secure My Child’s Future?

Dear Shade,

I’m in my early 30s engaged to a widower in his 50s. We plan to get married in a few months and I‘m already pregnant. While cleaning his study last week, I stumbled on something that looks like his Will and it seems like he already willed everything to the three children from his previous marriage. Since then I’ve been worried about my unborn children. What would be their fate? What if something suddenly happened to their father, will they have anything from him? How can I be sure what I found is really his valid Will? Since I’m already carrying his child, I am contemplating asking him to write another Will. The document I found dated back to 2009, what of assets he has acquired after he wrote this Will? Please advise me, how can I secure my children’s future?

Fikayo, Lagos

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Hello Fikayo,

I completely understand and empathize with your situation as it could be quite a challenge bringing up the issue of Wills with your fiancé considering the fact that you are not yet married to him. It is only natural that you are concerned about the security of your children’s future, given the prevailing circumstance. Your concerns are valid and thinking about an update of your fiancé’s estate plan is the way to go.

The details you provided about the document you stumbled upon are hardly enough for me to ascertain if it is indeed your fiancé’s Will. However, even if it is not his Will, it is likely an indication that a Will exists, and your fiancé is knowledgeable and intentional about estate planning. I think you should find a little relief in this fact, it gives you a good pedestal to start the conversation about an amendment and all that.

It should interest you to note that the Wills Law of Lagos State makes it necessary for your fiancé to make provisions for all his dependents in a Will which would include your unborn child and subsequent children. In the event that he refuses to make the appropriate provision, he must state a reason or reasons for his refusal. You should also be aware that since you are not yet married to him you do not outrightly become his dependent, the baby notwithstanding.

If all else is in place, you should focus on getting married as the marriage will confer on you rights as a dependent and give you the needed standing to discuss his succession plan. Once married statutorily-that is marriage done through a marriage registry, all prior Wills written by your husband (including his 2009 Will) would become invalid according to the provisions of the Wills Law. He would therefore need to rewrite his Will based on the statutory marriage with you.

Should there be any fatality to your husband after your marriage without him rewriting his Will, you would be entitled to all his personal belongings (items like clothes, jewelry, watches etc) and one-third of his estate according the Administration of Estate Law while his children would be entitled to two-thirds of the estate. These unspecific distributions could however be likely cause of dispute amongst family members due to valuation and sharing issues relating to the Assets. Should the unfortunate occur before your wedding, the child should still be considered his dependent.

I understand that the subject of Wills may appear to be a bit emotional, but I would recommend that you subtly encourage your fiancé upon marriage to re-write his Will so that the intestacy rules are prevented and the beneficiaries’ gifts are clearly stated to reduce dispute amongst family members. You should also consider writing your Will if you do not have one.

Thanks to everyone who has reached out to me with their concerns. If you would like to have your question featured, please email your question to askshade@armtrustees.com

Warm regards,

Shade

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