Probate Practice gets a Second Look at 2019 NBA-SLP Conference in Akure
‘He has learned much, who has learned how to DIE.’
That was the rather intriguing quote with which the chairperson of the second panel discussion on Day Two of the 2019 NBA-SLP Conference, Hon. Justice O. Akeredolu, the Chief Judge of Ondo State, opened the session, which was titled, ‘The Revenue Booster – Probate Practice as an Income Generator.’
The topic of death is, of course, not exactly a favorite subject of dinner-time conversation or fireside chats. In Nigeria, as one of the panel discussants observed, a culture of denial (It’s Not My Portion!) is an almost universal reaction to the subject of mortality. Still, given the importance of preparing for the inevitable, the panelists more than did justice to the topic, as could be seen by the rapt attention paid to their respective presentations by the audience.
The lead speaker, Mr. O. Olasewere, a lawyer of almost three decades of post-call experience, began his presentation with a number of pertinent posers relating to issues such as the inheritor(s) of assets per will or testamentary trusts; living trusts usually executed by third parties – especially when this document is prepared during the testator’s lifetime, and so forth. The speaker called for an estate plan by all, after having satisfied the above and other questions such as the presence of minor or grown children; laws of intestacy in given jurisdictions; the appointment of guardians and whether these guardians should be compensated; the financial status of said guardians and their ability to accommodate the deceased’s offspring; how to fund the trust, etc. He ended by urging lawyers to lay all cards on the table as far as the modalities relating to probate issues, rights and obligations of testators and their beneficiaries are concerned.
Mrs. Tola Ayanru, who spoke next, boasts of about a decade of experience in succession planning, as well as probate and commercial services. She laced her presentation with examples of probate laws and practices from various jurisdictions across the world, notably in the western countries from which many of our common-law legislations are adopted, as well as from Lagos State, which has some of the more progressive probate regulations in the country today.
On ways to improve probate service delivery in the country, Ayanru called for far-reaching reforms aimed both at helping probate lawyers and judges perform to their optimum, but at creating the right environment for staffers of probate registry to do the same. She also called for a proper evaluation of intellectual property, for the benefit of potential beneficiaries. Significantly, too, she reminded her listeners of the importance of the range of taxes raised from estate and probate planning towards enhancing the internally-generated revenue, IGR, aimed at boosting the revenues of government.
Mr. Sunday Oroleke, a lawyer and an insurance expert who currently serves as the head of compliance at Leadway Assurance Company Ltd., spoke next on the importance of acquiring life insurance policies – an area that still elicits very little interest among Nigerians, a meager 3%. He assured listeners that the old bottlenecks which used to clog the process of acquiring policies in the past are now firmly a thing of the past. These days, he added, we can all plan our estates – no matter how substantial – for very small amounts. More importantly, insurance has a clear advantage over the probate process which takes too long, does not ensure privacy, and results in the undue exposure of one’s assets to prying eyes. Insurance, on the other hand, helps to protect loved ones by transferring assets directly to them without need of a formal will and testament, or probate processes; it also helps to diversify one’s assets; and it affords greater certainty in a time of uncertainty.
Oroleke’s presentation was followed by another lively interactive session.
According to Newswire’s correspondents at the conference venue in Akure, Ondo State, it was in the third and last session of the day – and the conference – that the intellectual fireworks really came ablaze. Titled, ‘Improving the Quality of Legal Services – The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Judicial Dispute Resolution,’ it was chaired by Babatunde Fagbohunlu, SAN, a senior partner at the law firm of Aluko & Oyebode. He conducted his session as a CNN-style question-and-answer style, in which he posed questions centered on what he called the 3 Cs – Culture, Character and Capacity – to three legal luminaries, Femi Falana, SAN; Osaro Eghobamien, SAN, a senior partner at the law firm of Perchstone & Graeys; and the brilliant Hamid Abdulhamid, a partner at Aluko & Oyebode.
Noting that litigation (or judicial dispute resolution, JDR, as against mediation, or alternative dispute resolution, ADR) makes up the vast majority of legal cases, Fagbohunlu asked what lessons JDR had to learn from ADR, and the relevance of the 3Cs to the practice of law. He lamented some of the ills that plagued Nigerian society – of which the legal community was an integral part – to include little respect for schedules;
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