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In Ome N’ala: A son is not responsible for his Father’s debts if:-

By the tradition of Igbo people of West Africa; when a man dies intestate his assets and liabilities are transferred automatically to his first son (Opara); assuming the man left assets and liabilities. 

And going by English law, the Opara becomes the administrator of his father’s estate.

Now, in accordance with Igbo tradition, the Opara is the administrator of his father’s estate since he and his father are deemed to be one.

Just like in Christianity where Jesus is considered as the first ‘son’ of God. And Jesus was quoted in John 10:30 to have said; “I and my father are one.”

However, after his all his father's burial rights have been performed and upon the availability of the Opara, the extended family/kindred will gather to share the man’s assets less liabilities amongst his sons according to the custom of the people.

Incidentally, the man’s daughters, by tradition, are excluded from the man’s estate. But the man can give away some of his assets to his daughters while alive and such assets will not be taken from the women at the man’s death.

Unfortunately, a WILL is not recognised in Ome N’ala. But a WILL can be established out of a man’s intentions. For example, my father was a traditional ruler, before he joined his ancestors on 6/8/2012, he asked my sister to try and marry so that he will transfer some assets to her.

Sadly my sister didn’t marry before my father departed. But as the Opara, the intention of my father to transfer some assets to my sister will be upheld.

Thus, the above narrative is based on the notion that the man left net assets. But where the father’s liabilities are greater than his assets; can a creditor hold the Opara responsible for his father’s debts?

Well, in Ome N’ala, a father’s assets are usually tied to his liabilities. In other words, the man’s assets would already be in the custody of the creditor as a pledge/guarantee (Igba-Ibe) until repayments are made.

Moreover, the creditor usually gets the Opara to sign as a guarantor to the debts and thereby effectively transferring his rights and privileges concerning his father’s asset in question to the creditor.

And so, logically, the assets the Opara inherits from his father’s estate are those assets that are not encumbered. And that is why most times you hear some Opara selling their father’s properties to repay their father's debts.

Besides, even if the creditor decides to take the matter to the courts, the court can only rule to the extent of the father’s estate. No court will compel a son to repay his father’s debts from his (son’s) private funds.

However, morally and NOT legally or customarily, most Opara repay their father’s debts if they have the means to do so. But where the Opara is poor himself and cannot repay his father’s debts; what will the creditor do? Nothing!!!

Invariably, in Ome N'ala Igbo, the Opara (first son) is not under any obligation to repay his father's debts unless the father left assets to offset his debts.