Once upon a time, in the heart of the Giant of Africa – Nigeria, there was a widely popular, yet peculiar, belief. Many considered this belief as steadfast as the imposing Zuma Rock, as though it was an ancient rite handed down from generation to generation. It is the belief that the next of kin is like a knight in shining armor, gallantly riding in to inherit the castle of a departed knight – metaphorically speaking, the deceased’s estate.
Imagine the “Next of Kin” as a jester who, in the minds of the average Nigerian, has suddenly been crowned king – a kind of fool’s paradise, if you will. The notion is somewhat of a beautiful catastrophe, a humble majesty, an oxymoron of sorts, painting a colorful picture of a vivid misunderstanding.
Consider for a moment, a game of musical chairs. All the relatives circle around the estate, eagerly waiting for the music of life to stop so they can claim their ‘throne’. In this game, everyone thinks the “next of kin” title bestows upon its bearer, a golden ticket to take the biggest chair in the middle. But here’s the twist, the concept of “Next of Kin” in Nigerian law is, in essence, a silent song; it doesn’t play in this game of musical chairs, at least not in the way many believe it does.
A next of kin is like a book on a shelf, acknowledged for its existence, but rarely taken down to read. It’s generally recognized as an emergency contact, someone to call when life’s unpredictable twisters come tearing through. It doesn’t come with a majestic cloak of inheritance or a scepter of authority over the deceased’s properties.
Now, let’s step out of our metaphoric mansion and face the brick-and-mortar reality. In Nigeria, under the Laws of Intestate Succession, when a person dies without a valid will, their estate goes to the immediate family members in a specific order: spouse, children, parents, siblings, and so on. However, if there is a will, the content of the will takes precedence, distributing the estate as stipulated by the deceased. This will could very well make the jester the king, but only if explicitly stated by the deceased.
So, in essence, the true position is that the “Next of Kin” is akin to a gatekeeper who holds the key, but does not necessarily own the castle. The law, being the invisible maestro of our peculiar game of musical chairs, dictates who finally sits when the music stops.
Therefore, let’s not be a cat chasing its tail, believing in the fantastic illusion of the next of kin as an automatic heir. Instead, let’s be like the tortoise, wise and knowledgeable, understanding the intricate dance of estate inheritance, and appreciating the true maestro of the show – the law.
In our jovial game, understanding this is the real golden ticket. Because, after all, knowledge is the best dance partner in the goofy dance of life.