Femi Osibona, the developer of the 21-storey building which collapsed recently, reportedly died in the rubbles. Many also met their untimely death in the collapse of the high-rise building. Controversies abound.

Sadly, there appears to be no tears for Femi Osibona, only spears and arrows within his family, as the blocks holding his family appears to be collapsing too, following the news of his demise. The family members have buried their heads in conflict even when his body is yet to be properly buried. For the body of Femi Osibona to feel the weight of a 21-storey building, members of his family ought to mercifully focus on how to give him a befitting burial and pay their last respects.

Femi Osibona is said to have left behind his wife and four children. But the real war is about the wealth he left behind. From the reports, his wife is up against his brothers for Femi Osibona’s assets.

Circumstances like this are not unusual. Stories of family members of a deceased person fighting over properties of the deceased are common. These family members hardly fight over who will settle the deceased’s debts and liabilities.

Some immediate and extended family members of the deceased do not precisely give due regard to the deceased’s surviving spouse and children, especially when the children are still minors. This is mostly not a minor problem. It is a major concern.

Nonetheless, the law has made provisions for what should happen to the belongings (estate) of a deceased person when death comes calling. If the deceased made a will, the executors named in the will are expected to take appropriate steps upon grant of probate to administer the estate of the deceased testator.

If the deceased failed to leave a will and did not organise certain affairs in his lifetime, the law still got his or her back. The relevant Administration of Estates Law will apply. Provisions are made on the grant of letters of administration to certain members of the deceased’s family who will have the authority to administer the estate.

In certain cases, the court might take more steps in involving outsiders to administer the estate of a deceased person if absolutely necessary. For instance, in Lagos, the office of the Administrator-General and Public Trustee created by law can, among other duties, assist in the administration and equitable sharing of the assets of person(s) who die (with or without leaving a will), among qualified beneficiaries.

There are legal procedures which might appear technical in dealing with issues of a deceased’s estate. But lawyers with expertise in this field are capable of giving complete guide.

Even where there are oppositions and obstacles here and there, the courts can entertain actions to define things, preserve the deceased’s estate and protect the rights of all those legally entitled to benefit from the estate. Thus, the first port of call is operating from a position of knowledge.

It must be noted that in all cases, like in Femi Osibona’s case, his legally married wife and children remain the priorities in the eyes of the law.

This is so even if, to the knowledge of the deceased’s siblings, the deceased was caught up in some marital issues with his or her spouse. So long as the marriage was legally subsisting prior to the death of either spouse, it is difficult to deny the surviving spouse his or her rights.

Of course, things could be easier if couples learn to treat themselves as one, respect themselves and their union, and work for their own good and the good of their children.

Instead of behaving like the uncivilized, the family members of a deceased person like Femi Osibona are required to approach issues civilly without necessarily engaging in conducts that might appear to be disgraceful and amounting to crime.

There are several avenues to use to resolve all the issues and allow wise counsel to prevail.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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