Life After Husband's Exit: Family Finances and Inheritance


Rev. Fr. Christopher Nnubia

1. Introduction

It is no news to us that "life is in stages". We face different stages of life cycle as explained in my book: Christian Marriage: Before, During and After Its Celebration. These stages are: Pre-birth (Potential), Birth (Hope), Infancy (Ages 0-3) Vitality, Early childhood (Ages 3-6) Playfulness, Middle Childhood (Ages 6-8) Imagination, late Childhood (Ages 9-11) Ingenuity, Adolescence (Ages 12-20) Passion, Early Adulthood (Ages 20-35) Enterprise, Midlife (35- 50) Contemplation, Mature Adulthood (Ages 50 -80) Benevolence, Late Adulthood (Age 80+) Wisdom and Death and Dying: life. (p. 54-55). For us Catholics, this life cycle leads us into three different vocations, namely married life, priestly life and religious life depending on our individual's calling.

In this piece, our concern is on that of the life cycle which leads to married life. In Nigeria, Christians and Catholics in particular undergo three stages of marriage, namely, civil marriage (marriage under the Native law and Custom -Traditional marriage- and marriage under the act -court marriage) and Christian Marriage.  As noted in the Christian Marriage: Before, During and After its Celebration, "each of these marriages are valid and important. Coming from a locality, the engaged persons need to officially inform their people of the intention to get married and the normal Native Law and Custom is to be upheld by carrying out the traditional marriage or marriage under Native Law and Custom. Because the engaged persons also belong to a state, they need to inform the state of their married status for recognition. Afterwards, they proceed to the Church in which they belong to solemnize their union for recognition through the canonical form." (p. 104).


There is a way in the Church to reduce the stress of undergoing through these three stages of marriage. It is by registering the intending Christian marriage at the Marriage Registry. This registration could also be done in two ways: If the parish is certified to be issuing the civil marriage certificate then the engaged persons do not need to go to the marriage registry for registration; if the parish is not certified, the engaged persons are to approach any Marriage Registry and get the marriage registered for civil recognition before the Christian marriage.


There is need for the civil registration of the Christian marriage so that it be recognized by the state as marriage under the act. Any marriage celebrated in the Catholic Church here in Nigeria is recognized as marriage under the Act if only it is registered at the Marriage Registry, and if not registered, it is regarded as a customary marriage.


2.0 Life after Husband's Exit: Family Finances and Inheritance

As reflected above, the last stage of human's life cycle is death and dying. The transition from wife to widow, husband to widower, is a very real, painful, and personal phenomenon. (Christian Marriage 212). The questions are: How can a married man (husband) help to reduce the pains his wife will face from wife to widow as regards family finances and inheritance after his exist? How can a married man (husband) help to reduce the trauma of the wife in trying to adjust to her new identity while being besieged with a multitude of urgent questions and decisions? It is better to begin now to plan for that D-Day in your family when you will no longer be there. Let us consider the following:


i. Civil Registration of Marriage

The first preparation for the life after the husband's exist begins with the civil registration of Christian marriage. This registration serves a lot of purposes in future for both spouses. It is mainly for protection of the rights of married couples in their civil rights; for protection and guidance of the life/properties of widows or widowers and their children for any civil claims/problems. If the husband exits, the wife will pray to the civil court for protection of the family's property; and the judgement of the court (High Court) reigns supreme. This is because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria supersedes any other law. If the marriage is not registered then the High Court cannot handle the marriage problem because the marriage is not a marriage under the act. The case is then referred to the Customary court and the Customary court will judge the case based on the custom of the people.

I want to use this opportunity to make this appeal: please go and register your marriage at the Marriage Registry, if not yet registered not minding when the marriage took place. For me, any man who refuses to register his marriage at the Marriage Registry is an indication that he is ignorant of it or has a hidden agenda. Dear mothers here present, if your husband is refusing to have civil recognition of your marriage with him, find out what the problem is. If he has no good reason, contact the Parish Priest. Every marriage celebrated in the Catholic Church must be registered.


ii. Home Formation: Financial responsibilities between couple in a Home

            Although some couples prefer to avoid the subject of finances altogether, it is not a topic that should be taken lightly, especially when you have a family or spouse that depends on your decisions. With all the different twists that life has to offer, you need to review and update your overall financial picture on an annual basis. The potential of a stolen wallet, divorce, or perhaps a sudden loss of a spouse could happen to any couple and it can turn your financial world into a real frenzy.

            According to Investor Solutions, there are too many cases where the husband dies and the wife is left out in the cold. In many cases, the widow knows that there is a life insurance policy or various investments, but she just does not know where they are. It is advisable that both spouses should sit down together and make a list of all important documents and possessions. This should include: bank and investment accounts, safe deposit boxes, vehicle titles, document titles, mortgage documents, life and medical insurance, credit cards, important phone numbers, retirement and pension benefits, and social security information, just to name a few. This list will most likely help you later in life when you prepare to draft such things as wills, trust documents, and homeowner’s insurance inventory. The issue of next of kin should be discussed and updated annually.

            Once you have developed this list, giving it to each other, one of your children, or your parents is not a bad idea either. If you are out of town and you lose a wallet or purse, a simple phone call to your child/parent asking them to cancel your Debit Card (ATM Card) will make it less nerve-racking while you enjoy the rest of your vacation. In case of death, the process of becoming an estate administrator can be quite burdensome if the deceased maintained inadequate records. If a simultaneous death or long-term injury of both a husband and wife were to occur, the executor is challenged with the task of sorting out all the bills and assets, this can be stressful and time consuming if organized records are not available.

            Taking a look at your overall picture on an annual basis will help you avoid some of the common financial planning mistakes that many couples overlook.        As you can see, many financial mistakes can be avoided if you just make the time to review your finances at least annually or seek professional help. (Christian Marriage 178-179).


iii. Provision of will: The Webster's  Comprehensive Dictionary defines Will as legal declaration of a man's intentions as to his estate after his death. It is the written instrument by which someone declares his desires for the distribution of his property.


A will summarily then is a document made by a person called the testator wherein he confers benefits on another person called the beneficiary. A will is a document by which a person transfers benefits or assets to another person. A will is an instrument that provides security or welfare for the family of the maker. A will is the sum total of what a person wishes to happen to those he lives behind on his death.

Your will is to be updated annually. It is not out of place to make the executor or executrix of the will known to your spouse and children.


Types of Wills


According to Akumuo, it might be of interest for us to know that there various types of will. The following are some of those varieties, namely:


1.      Holographic Will. One that is entirely written; dated and signed by the hand of the testator himself"


2.      Joint Will. One executed jointly by two persons with reciprocal provisions which show on its face that the devices are made one in consideration of the other. Joint will is one in which the same instruments is executed by two persons as their respective will. It is a testamentary instrument executed by two or more persons in pursuance of a common intention, for the purpose of disposing of their several interests in property owned by them in common, or of their separate property treated as a common fund, to a third person or persons." It is advisable for the spouses to have a joint will.


3.       Mutual (or reciprocal) Will. One in which two or more persons make mutual or reciprocal provisions in favour of each other. Mutual Wills" are the separate wills of two persons which are reciprocal in their provisions, and such a will may be both joint and mutual. Sometimes, it is called a "reciprocal", "double", or "counter" will." It is advisable for the spouses to have a mutual will.



4.      Nuncupative Will. An oral will declared or dictated by the testator in his last moment before a sufficient number of witnesses; and after words reduced to writing. A will made by the verbal declaration of the testator, and usually dependent merely on oral testimony for proof. Such wills are invalid in certain states, and in others are valid only under certain circumstances."


It is important to mention that a will unless it is made in contemplation of a particular marriage is revoked by the marriage or remarriage of the testator. In line with our discussion on life after the husband's exist, it is advisable for the spouses to have either a joint will or mutual will so as to be transparent in dealing with their family finances and inheritance.


Legal terms used in wills:


·         Testator: This usually applies to a man who makes or has made a testament or will, or one who dies leaving a will.

·         Testatrix: A woman who makes a will; a woman who died leaving a will; a female testator in short.

·       Executor: A man appointed by the testator to carry out the directions and requests in his will, and to dispose of the property according to his testament provisions after his death.

·         Executrix: A woman appointed by the testator to administer his Estate upon his death. A female Executor.

·         Beneficiary: One who derives benefits under a will. In him resides the equitable interests in devised property. He can also be called the Legatee.

·         Trustee: One in whom an estate, interest, or power is vested under an express or implied agreement to administer or exercise it for the benefits or to the use of another. One who holds the legal title to property "in trust" for the benefit of another person called the beneficiary and who must carry out specific duties with regard to the property.

·         Estate:  The total of assets and liabilities of the testator including all manners of property, real and personal, developed or undeveloped, corporeal or incorporeal.

·          Legacy: Is a gift by will of personal property.

·          Legal representative:  A person who oversees the legal affairs of another. It is always held to be synonymous with "personal representative". It includes the executor or administrator of an estate and a court appointed guardian of a minor or an incompetent person.

·         Administrator (trix): A person appointed by the court to administer/manage or take charge of the assets and liabilities of a deceased person. Such a person may be a male (in which case he is called administrator) or a female (administratix)'".  (

3.0 Conclusion

Death is inevitable. As Catholics, we should prepare for our death, spiritually, financially, materially and otherwise in such a way that our exist will not make life miserable for those we will leave behind. As you can see in the above discussion, the civil registration of marriage, home formation: Financial responsibilities between couple in a Home and the provision of will are essential life after our exist as regards family finances and inheritance.

Given on 22nd June 2016 at Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, Central Area during the Fathers' Day Celebration.

Note: For more clarification and question(s), send message to my page or my inbox. I trust you and I love you all.







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