#All #Hope Classic

Can ‘Next of Kin’ automatically benefit from the estate of a deceased?

By Bamidele Kolawole

It is a general misconception that when a person is named a Next of Kin, he/she automatically qualifies as a direct heir/heiress or automatically acquires the properties of the person who names him when he dies.

David Ebriku Esq.

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines the words ‘next of kin’ as the person or persons most closely related to a descendant blood or affinity. A person’s next of kin is his closest living relative who will serve as first contact in the event of emergencies or eventualities. He is empowered to make decisions for the person in times of need or where the person is not readily available or unable to make personal decisions.In the Australian case of Emsley vs Young,3 Knox C.J held inter alia:“it is not, and I think cannot be disputed that the primary meaning of the expression ‘next of kin’ used simpliciter in a Will is the nearest blood relations of the testator at the date of his death.”However, the meaning and legal implication of the words ‘next of kin’ have been generally misunderstood as there is an erroneous belief that a next of kin is automatically entitled and/or qualified to inherit from a deceased person’s estate. On the contrary, it is only those entitled to inherit a deceased person’s estate that can validly do so. A ‘next of kin’ is not one of such persons, although where such a ‘next of kin’ has been expressly named by a Testator under an instrument or a document, he has a right to inherit on a personal ground.The Position of Next of Kin where there is a Valid Will (Testacy)A next of kin has been described as a relative who is contacted first where the one who named him is incapacitated or when there is any crisis. The court in the case of Joseph v. Fajemilehin O.O & Anor; 5 held inter alia thus:Let it be placed on record that the term “next-of-kin” can be used in three senses. Firstly, it can be used to simply refer to the nearest blood relative or secondly, the person who to be notified in case of any eventualities of life such as an accident, emergency or death. The appointment of a ‘next of kin’ will not operate as a substitute for making a Will, this is because where a man dies testate, the position of next of kin becomes irrelevant as the testator must have given instructions on who the executors and beneficiaries are under the Will. For a next of kin to benefit under a Will, there must be an express provision by the testator to that effect.   

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

It is a general misconception that when a person is named a Next of Kin, he/she automatically qualifies as a direct heir/heiress or automatically acquires the properties of the person who names him when he dies.

That, however, is not entirely the position in law.

 Although, The Black’s Law Dictionary (7th Edition) defines a Next of Kin at page 1065 as “1. The person or persons most closely related by blood to a decent; 2. The persons entitled to inherit personal property from a decent who has not left a will, a next of kin does not automatically translate into being the owner of the property upon the death of the testator.

A next of kin can only be entitled to inherit a testator’s property, when he is expressly mentioned as one of the beneficiaries in a will or when he has obtained a letter of administration or by operation of law or custom.

The Black’s Law Dictionary (7th Edition) also defines  an “Estate” as ‘1. The amount, degree, nature, and quality of a person’s interest in land or other property. 2. All that a person or entity owns, including both real and personal property. 3.The property that one leaves after death…’

The question of who is entitled to inherit from a deceased’s estate is solely a question of law, which could either be under the English law, customary law, Islamic law, or the Administration of Estates law of each jurisdiction.

On the position of a next of kin when there is a will, the appointment of a ‘next of kin’ will not operate as a substitute for making a Will, this is because where a man dies testate, the position of next of kin becomes irrelevant as the testator must have given instructions on who the executors and beneficiaries are under the Will.

The position of a next of kin when there is no will is the same with that of a will. The distribution of a deceased’s estate in an intestacy (where there is no will) is governed by the law. For instance, Section 49 (5) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State, 2015 provides that: “Where any person who is subject to customary law contracts a marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act and such person dies intestate after the commencement of this law leaving a widow or husband or an issue of such marriage, any property of which the said intestate might have disposed by Will shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions of this law, any customary law to the contrary notwithstanding” 

Related News  Is Mr. & Mrs. valid in law as owners of real property?

Thus, where a person who is subject to customary law contracts a marriage under the Morning Act, there is a presumption that the Marriage Act shall regulate succession to his intestate estate.

However, where the marriage was contracted under the customary law, the customary law of the deceased person’s place will govern how the property will be shared and who is entitled or not entitled to the property.

 Thus, since the Administration of Estate Law provides for the order of inheritance which ought to be strictly adhered to, a next of kin, not being among the categories of those entitled to inheritance cannot automatically become a beneficiary of a deceased’s estate in the event of an intestacy.

Obada Toyosi Charles Esq

Whether a next of kin automatically benefits from an estate in Nigeria depends on several factors, including:

Presence of a Will: With a Will: If the deceased left a valid will, the beneficiaries named in the will inherit the estate, regardless of their relationship to the deceased.

In this case, “next of kin” may not be relevant for inheritance purposes. Without a Will (Intestacy): If the deceased died without a valid will, intestacy laws apply.

These laws determine who inherits the estate based on the deceased’s family structure and personal circumstances.

(2) Applicable Law: General Law: The Administration of Estates Laws of 1963 (as amended) applies in most parts of Nigeria.

This law specifies the order of inheritance for intestates, with surviving spouses, children, parents, and siblings being prioritized. Customary Law: In some regions, customary laws might govern inheritance alongside the general law. These laws can vary significantly across different communities and may prioritize different family members.

(3) Legal Definition of “Next of Kin”:Next of kin is not a legal term with a fixed definition in Nigerian inheritance law. It often refers to the closest living relatives of the deceased, but its exact meaning can vary depending on the context. Therefore, a next of kin does not automatically inherit an estate in Nigeria.

Their inheritance rights depend on the presence or absence of a will, the applicable law, and their specific relationship to the deceased within the legal framework.

Olusegun Kofoworola Esq

No!!! There are laws governing benefitting from the Estate of a deceased person.

To determine who benefits from the Estate of a Deceased person we first consider 2 things

Whether the person died Testate or Intestate.

That is whether the person died writing a Testament or without one.

Where a person died with a Will then the beneficiaries of the Will would have been named in the Will and the extent of what accrue to them in the Estate would have been defined.

Where a person died without a Will. Then the Letter of Administration would be applied from the probate Registry for the administration of the estate of the deceased and there’s a procedure for applying for that.

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines next of kin as someone who is closely related to another by blood or affinity. A next of kin stands in a position of one who is to be called during emergency. However, the question as to whether he can benefit from the estate of a deceased person is a matter that has to do with the will of the deceased. Even though, a next of kin is someone closely related by blood, it is the testator who can expressly state in his will that the next of kin should benefit from his estate, otherwise, he remains a next of kin and nothing more.

Thus, a beneficiary is someone who is named in a will to be a beneficiary of the estate of a deceased person. This is where there is a valid will made by the deceased. Therefore, a beneficiary is the one who is set to benefit from the estate of a deceased person and has been expressed to be so upon the death of the maker of the will in that regard.

Ilemobayo Akinbote Esq.

Where a person dies leaving behind a will, the position of a next of kin is irrelevant, because the appointment of a next of kin is not a substitute for making a will. A person can be a next of kin and may not be a beneficiary and vice versa. Any person that will benefit from the estate of a deceased person, must be included in the will of the deceased person. The Court has reinforced that fact that the term, next of kin can be used in three different senses. One, it can be used to simply refer to the nearest blood relative.

Related News  Is Mr. & Mrs. valid in law as owners of real property?

Where a person dies intestate, i.e. there is no will, being a next of kin does not automatically confer on him the benefits of inheritance. The sharing of the properties of the deceased person may not necessarily confer the right to benefit from the estate of a deceased person. Once he is not expressly provided for in a will, he cannot be a beneficiary of the estate of the deceased. The principle governing the estate of a deceased person is rooted in the law he chose to govern his estate upon death. A person may not necessarily be one’s son or wife before he or she is chosen to be a next of kin. A next of kin ceases to be one immediately after his appointor dies.

Joshua Adefehinti Esq

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines the words ‘next of kin’ as the person or persons most closely related to a descendant by blood or affinity. The next of kin is the closest living relative designated to act as the primary contact in case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

This individual is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the person in situations of need or when the person is unavailable or unable to make personal decisions. Nevertheless, the interpretation and legal ramifications of the term ‘next of kin’ have often been misconstrued.

There exists a mistaken notion that a next of kin is inherently entitled or qualified to inherit from the estate of a deceased individual. In reality, only those with a legitimate claim to inherit can validly do so. A ‘next of kin’ does not fall into this category.

However, if a ‘next of kin’ is explicitly named by a Testator in a document, they hold the right to inheritance on a personal basis. The role of the next of kin in cases involving a legally valid will (Testacy)A next of kin is defined as a relative who is the initial point of contact in the event of the incapacity of the individual who designated them or during any crisis.

The court in the case of Joseph v. Fajemilehin O.O & ANOR (2012) LPELR-9849 (CA) held inter alia thus: Let it be placed on record that the term “next-of-kin” can be used in three senses. Firstly, it can be used to simply refer to the nearest blood relative or secondly, the person who to be notified in case of any eventualities of life such as an accident, emergency or death.

Secondly, he may be required to make medical decisions such as providing information or consent for a person who is incapacitated or thirdly, the term can be used to refer to an heir.

Appointing a ‘next of kin’ does not serve as a substitute for creating a Will. In cases where an individual passes away with a valid will (testate), the role of the next of kin becomes insignificant, as the testator would have already specified the executors and beneficiaries in the will.

To enable a next of kin to benefit under a will, explicit provisions must be made by the testator. When a will designates a list of executors, these individuals exclusively possess the authority to administer the estate upon acceptance, unless unavailable or incapable.

It is crucial to note that merely holding the position of next of kin does not automatically grant the right to inherit from the testator’s estate. The role of the next of kin in cases where there is no valid will (intestacy)Intestacy arises when an individual passes away without a legally valid Will to guide the distribution of their estate upon death.

Olubunmi Akinseye Esq

As to weather a Next-of-kin automatically benefiting from an Estate under the Law; it depends largely on the prevailing circumstance.

Foremost, who is a Next-of-kin? According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, the 10th Edition to be precise, a Next-of-kin is someone who is most closely related to a decedent (say a dead person) by Blood or Affinity.

It also defines it as An intestate hiers. From these definitions, it is quite clear that the answer to this question depends on the prevailing circumstance. In the first instance, if a Decedent left a will without bequeathing anything to a named Next-of-kin, except the Next-of-kin challenged the WILL in Court, he won’t be giving anything in the Estate of the Decedent.

Related News  Is Mr. & Mrs. valid in law as owners of real property?

However, if a Decedent had put forth a Next-of-kin before dying without living a WILL, the Next-of-kin may end up being the sole Beneficiary of the Estate, of course under the Law, after doing the needful, such as taken a letter of Administration without the will attached, since there is no WILL anyway.

Obtaining a letter of Administration entails going through the PROBATE Section and fulfilling all Righteousness as would be spelt out by the PROBATE Registrar, inline with the relevant Laws.

 The only instance of a Next-of-kin automatically benefiting under the Law, without any legal nitty gritty, is when the Decedent who died intestate had filled the POD FORM in his life-time, directing the holding Bank to release the fixed or any other Cash in his (Decedent’s) name to the Next-of-kin he had identified in POD FORM. The POD, is Payment On Point of Death; by this a Next-of-kin can easily Access gifts bequeathed to him in form of Cash.

Also, in civil service, the Next-of-kin put forth by Decedent public officer in his life-time, will automatically benefit the estate of the Late public officer, however, not without first furnishing necessary documents, such as Death Certificate, proofs that truly he or she is the very Next-of-kin in question.

Having said much, there is hard an instance when a Next-of-kin could automatically benefit in an estate under the Law, without having to do some legal paper works, even though, it may be minor, like in the POD FORM situation, concerning money in banks.

Tomisin Fajulugbe

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines the words ‘next of kin’ as the person or persons most closely related to a descendant by blood or affinity. A person’s next of kin is his closest living relative who will serve as first contact in the event of emergencies or eventualities. He is empowered to make decisions for the person in times of need or where the person is not readily available or unable to make personal decisions.

On whether a next of kin can automatically benefit from an estate under the law, the answer is not a simple yes or no. In Nigeria, the inheritance of an estate is governed by a mix of customary law, common law, and Islamic law. Generally speaking, the next of kin does not automatically inherit an estate under Nigerian law. Instead, the inheritance is determined by a combination of factors, including the deceased’s will, religious affiliation, and the laws of the deceased’s state of origin. Let’s take the example of a man named John who passes away in Lagos, Nigeria. He was a Muslim and was from the state of Kaduna. Under Islamic law, his estate would be divided into three parts: one-third for his wife, one-third for his children, and one-third for his parents. However, since he was from Kaduna state, the customary law of Kaduna would also apply. In Kaduna, customary law states that the eldest son would inherit the largest share of the estate, with smaller shares going to other relatives. A next of kin has been described as a relative who is contacted first where the one who named him is incapacitated or when there is any crisis. The court in the case of Joseph v. Fajemilehin O.O & Anor, held inter alia thus:

Let it be placed on record that the term “next-of-kin” can be used in three senses. Firstly, it can be used to simply refer to the nearest blood relative or secondly, the person who to be notified in case of any eventualities of life such as an accident, emergency or death. Secondly, he may be required to make medical decisions such as providing information or consent for a person who is incapacitated or thirdly, the term can be used to refer to an heir.

Thus, because a Will is testamentary and ambulatory in nature, it becomes effective and operational the moment the testator dies and the property of the testator can only be given out in accordance with the provisions of the Will and not be based on whether or not a person is named as a next of kin by the testator.

Biodun Fasakin esq

There are some conditions to be fulfilled. It also depends on the nature of vesting of the Estate property.

It could be under native law and custom, Will, Gift inter vivos and/or letter of administration.

Each has laid down conditions to be satisfied before you can take absolute benefit of the property in the Estate. This, it is not automatic.

Share
Can ‘Next of Kin’ automatically benefit from the estate of a deceased?

Alarming rate of HIV/AIDS in Ondo

Can ‘Next of Kin’ automatically benefit from the estate of a deceased?

Alternative dispute resolution clause

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *