There are several factors that people consider in choosing their next of kin. Here are some responses by Nigerians to the question “Who is your Next of Kin?”
Florence Dottie A business-woman (Married)
“I chose my husband as my next of kin because he 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 husband. And he is the closest person to me”.
Oluwatuyi Oluwole A business-man (Single)
My younger sister is my next of kin. I chose her because we are very close and I think she is the only person I can trust for now, as I am not married. All my documents such as my life insurance policy and bank details have her down as my next of kin although she is not aware of this.
Mrs Sobo A banker (Married)
“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 husband; that’s how he will go and marry again and the woman will use all my property to benefit her own children and neglect mine.”
“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”
Mrs Danlami (Teacher)
“My daughters are my next of kin. If you notice, female children always look after their parents in old age. Your daughter will never abandon you even if she marries and lives far away. Woe, betide you if your son marries a wicked woman. You are finished.”
Mr Johnson (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!”
Mrs Erinle (Lawyer)
It depends. I can put my husband down but I have to watch him closely for some years. I will look at how he behaves. If I see that he is unfaithful, and I can no longer trust him, I will take him off and put my sister.
Mr Iyamabo (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”
Ekaete A trader (married)
“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.”
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 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 transactions, 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, then 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; your property will be distributed to siblings and other close blood relatives, if your parents are deceased.
In Western cultures, the choice of the spouse as next of kin is the most obvious one as the mother of his children is generally the person in whom a man places the most trust. It is more common in Nigeria, however for a man to choose his brother as next of kin. In the event of your death making your wife your next of kin will save her and your children a lot of hardship given our extended family system where other family members often forcefully claim their brothers 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.
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 wrong hands after your death.