On Sunday 15th June 2014, the world celebrated Fathers Day; it is becoming increasingly popular as the day of the year dedicated to honour fathers. Whilst it largely serves commercial purposes as retailers encourage us all to buy gifts, it also presents an opportunity to reflect on fatherhood and some important issues that go hand in hand with this revered role.
In Western cultures, the choice of the spouse as next of kin is the most obvious one, for example, the mother of his children is generally the person in whom a man places the most trust. In Nigeria, however, it is very common for a man to choose his brother as next of kin. In the event of the husband’s death, making the wife your next of kin will save her and the children a lot of hardship given the traditional extended family system where other family members can often forcefully claim their brother’s property. There are numerous examples of widows having to cope with not only the loss of their spouse but also of all their personal possessions and property.
There are several factors that people consider in choosing their next of kin. Here are some revealing responses to the question “Who is your Next of Kin?”
Gbenga Martins: a businessman
I chose my wife as my next of kin because she should be the first person to know whatever happens to me. The meaning of next of kin is someone that can be reached quickly in case of any emergencies or issues, and that person to me is my wife. And she is the closest person to me.
Mr Iyamabo: a teacher
I have already put my father – he is very wise and can only do what is right for me. He will make sure my wife and children do not suffer.
Mr Thomas: a banker
My first son is my next of kin because he is the heir. If I choose my daughters, they will get married one day and their husbands could take over all that they have, and family property will then end up in a strange family. My son is a man, he controls the home and no woman would dare take over what is rightfully his. I can never choose my wife; that’s how she will go and marry again, and the man will have all my property to benefit his own children and neglect mine.
Chike: a trader
I will put my brother. I know him well – we grew up together. I wouldn’t make my wife my next of kin, though I love her so much. If I put one of her children, she will influence them. Women can change. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Ekaete: a trader (married woman)
My husband is my next of kin. We love and trust each other and are building everything together. He was there before any children came, so whatever affects me will affect him. I am sure he too will choose me as his next of kin.
Mr Johnson: a taxi driver
Ah! I will put my first son. I expect him to take care of all the family if I am not there. I can never put my wife – that’s how she will go and marry, and then some other man will be enjoying all my sweat and blood. Just the thought that she might be enjoying my money with another man after my death puts me off. Ah, no-oh! Never!
The word kin in the traditional sense means family, which apart from a spouse and children goes on to include the extended family, parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, and so on. The term “next-of-kin” is rather ambiguous and is usually used to describe a person’s closest living blood relative. In its broadest sense it indicates the person who should be notified in case of any eventualities of life such as an accident, emergency, or death. It also has implications as to who would be legally entitled to a decedents property where there is no will.
At some time or the other, you have probably had to fill out a form or some other documentation where you had to clearly state your next of kin. Many people don’t take this designation that seriously and sometimes even forget whom they designated as time goes by. This is an important issue particularly where the documentation you are completing relates to money matters such as investments in stocks, real estate, banking and insurance transactions, and so on.
If you were to die intestate, that is, without leaving a will, your property won’t simply pass to your spouse as you might think; strict rules rank your next of kin, and your property will be distributed according to laws of intestacy, which may vary from state to state.
If there is no will or other credible document in place, this is likely to be the order: If you are married, it would be your spouse. If you are a single parent or are widowed, your children will be your next of kin. If you are unmarried and without children, your parents will be legal heirs to your estate; if your parents are deceased your property will be distributed to siblings and other close blood relatives.
Bear in mind that the status of next of kin does not in any way imply that those designated stand to inherit any of the individual’s estate in the event of their death. It is only by having a valid will in place that you can protect your immediate family, including your wife and children, and ensure that your investments and property do not go into the wrong hands after your death. Fathers, do consider your estate and put your affairs in order.