Families of deceased persons who could not recover assets and property of the dead for one reason or the other can now heave a sigh of relief. This is why. A firm, Meristem Registrars and Probate Services Limited, has taken the lead to pioneer the all important business of recovering whatever assets and property left behind by a dead person, known or unknown, hidden or open. Daily Sun was on the trail of the Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the branch of Meristem Securities Limited, the Holding Company of the group, Mrs. Mubo Olasoko, is a chartered stockbroker and Fellow of the Institute of Capital Market Registrars.
Olasoko who has worked for Meristem Securities since 2003, said the current economic recession ravaging the country is a blessing in disguise because it has brought out the best out of the indigenous firm.
Recession as a blessing in disguise
In every tough situation, there are advantages and lessons to be learnt. The recession may have hit the nation and the business entities operating in the economy very hard but it has brought the best out of our multi-talented company. At Meristem as a group of companies, one of our core values is innovation; looking at the ways of meeting needs, where opportunities exist and offering services that will serve target market. At the height of the recession when we felt the impact, we looked inwards at our capacity and how much we can do. We looked at the society to identify needs out there that we can meet. We came to the conclusion that probate services are one area that no company or business entity has taken by the horns; what everybody does is to treat it as a side business. Give it to a lawyer, he considers it as a side business, and can treat it as an addition matter to his major routine. Give it to a stockbroker, he also does it as a side business. And the opportunities are there that people who lost beloved ones, who left behind assets and properties cannot access those assets and properties because they don’t know or they lack the capacity on how they can access those wealth. So, we looked critically at this opportunity and realized that this need exist. Therefore, we had to develop the structure and needed capacity to render this service to the members of the public.
Our structure and capacity as probate services provider
We had to create a whole department to take care of this service. And we had to understand the workings of probate registrars, how they work in those places, look at the processes, and set up the structures and the processes in place, the different layers and units to take care of any issues. For instance, we have lawyers in the department to take care of any legal issues, the business developers who go out there looking for that business. We have also put in place the technology so as to serve our clients with speed and ease.
We have a situation where somebody worked in government. Government is supposed to be deducting contributory pension funds and remitting to the pension account. So the person assumed that he had so much in pension scheme. But at the point where he wanted to check value of what he had, he discovered that the deductions were not remitted to pension account.
We can only work if the money resides in the pension account. But where the money did not come into the pension account, it will require another level of intervention which is not currently within our purview. If a company is supposed to contribute pensions but it didn’t contribute, it means that the benefits that were supposed to accrue to that person will not come because the assets that he is supposed to benefit from does not exist. So that person has to take his case further back to make sure the contributions come to the account.
As to how the person goes about it depends on the temperament of the organisation. If the organisation accepts that they have done wrong and are willing to rectify it, there will be no need for legal action. But if the company is adamant and insists they didn’t do anything wrong, I think the only way is to go to court to seek redress. So, we cannot be of help in this regard because our mandate does not cover that. Ours is helping to transfer assets from a deceased’s estate to the beneficiary, assets that exist and are identifiable. We only help the client do the legal processes of getting the assets. But whatever does not exist, we are not engaged to pursue it.
Advise to Nigerians
Let’s put our house in order. Once you’re 40 years old, you look at your assets and decide on how to manage it. It doesn’t have to get to the level of probate, you can do living trust. You can even share your estate before you pass on, or have a will that decides how you want your assets to be shared with out problems. If you don’t want to share your assets to be share, and you think that they can outlive you many years after you are gone, then you can think of a living trust or estate trust service. In that case all your assets come into that portfolio and are managed by a neutral organisation and a professional. Before you pass on you can see how it is managed, so that after the person dies there won’t be any problems about managing it. All the beneficiaries know what assets exist in that portfolio even though they may not know what benefits come to them. But they know that it is managed by a neutral organisation, professionals that cannot be easily influenced by an individual.
Target clients and geographical zones
We are looking at the whole country and all prospective clients from any part of the country. But we know that some of these services may be more prevalent in some particular areas of the country.
In the South East part of the country, for instance, we know that there are so many wealthy people because the majority of them are entrepreneurs. They are concerned about their immediate business. Therefore they do not take care of some of the assets they have. When they pass on, their loved ones do not know where they have some of the assets or if they have any. They do not know how to go about it. We think that if we are able to penetrate the South East, we would have been able to solve much of the nation’s problems in this regard.