While the benefits of having a Will executed and properly lodged at the Probate Registry before a Testator's death cannot be overemphasised 1, it is not unusual in the Nigerian clime to find a deceased person who is yet to make a Will before his death (i.e., died intestate).
The law made provisions to accommodate this circumstance by laying down the procedures for the grant /issuance of Letter of Administration (L.A) for the Estate of the deceased. Without the grant of the LA, the beneficiaries cannot legally access the monies or deal with the properties of the deceased. Until the LA is granted, the properties of the deceased are deemed to be vested in the Chief Judge of the State, wherein the deceased resided.
It must be noted that LA is granted upon application by a person entitled either personally or through his legal practitioner to the Probate Registrar. The application can be submitted by the legal practitioner on the behalf of the proposed administrators but a Legal practitioner cannot be made a co-applicant or sole applicant. This is one of the many differences between the application for grant of probate and LA, as there are specific persons that can be granted the powers. Usually, forms issued to the applicant are to be returned, upon completion, to the Probate Registry.
Furthermore, grant of LA is ideally to be made within 3(three) months (in Lagos state) or 6(six) months (In Abuja) from the death of the testator where he died intestate and every application for grant of LA are usually published to allow for objections and the filing of caveats.
It is understandably in the interest of security, transparency, and continuity, that one person cannot be granted the LA. It can only be granted to at least two people and a maximum of 4(four) persons. The only exception is where a Trust Corporation or the Administrator-General is appointed as Sole Administrator.
A. PERSONS ENTITLED TO APPLY FOR G RANT OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION
There is an order/priority for who can apply as of right for a grant of the LA under the law as follows:
- Husband or wife of the deceased
- Children of the deceased or the surviving issue of a child who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Father or mother of the deceased or the surviving issue of a child who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood and the children of such brothers or sisters who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters of half-blood of the deceased
- Grandfather or grandmother of the deceased
- Uncles and aunts of full blood or their children2
- Creditors of the Deceased
- Administrator General (where all the preceding fail)
B. DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS
Before initiating the process, it is imperative to know and have ready all the required documents that will be needed as itemised below:
i. Application Letter addressed to the Probate Registrar (either in Ikeja or Lagos) and containing the following
- Full names and address of the deceased
- Date of death of the deceased
- Place of residence of the deceased shortly before his death
- Full names and addresses of the proposed Administrator
ii. The Application Letter shall be accompanied with the
- Death Certificate of the deceased
- Passport photo of the deceased
- Passport photos of all the proposed Administrators
- ID Cards of all the proposed Administrators
- Phone numbers of the Administrators, beneficiaries and close relation of the deceased (which may be either father, mother, brother or sister)
iii. Filing and submission of the following Forms, together with the Payment Invoice:
- Application for A Grant of Letters of Administration (Without Will)
- Oath for Administration (Without Will)
- Administration Bond (Without Will)
- Particulars of Freehold/Leasehold Property Left by Deceased
- Declarations as To Next-Of-Kin
- Schedule of Debts Due by The Deceased
iv. The Bank Certificate will be given to you after you have paid for the Form Fees.
v. Gather all the assets of the deceased (both movable and immovable), get the balance standing to the credit of the deceased stamped on the Bank Certificate and resubmit for assessment.
vi. Payment of all requisite Estate Fees as assessed
vii. Scheduling of an interview at the Probate Registry to confirm that the information you provided the Court and the Probate is true.
viii. Publication in the Newspaper or the Gazette in order to allow the public or any interested person the opportunity to object and file a caveat to the Grant of Letters of Administration to the applicants. A period of 21 days is usually pegged for taking of objections on the application.
ix. If no objection is received within 21 days, the file will move to Probate Judge's office for necessary action.
x. Upon assessment at the Probate Judge's office, if every information in the file is confirmed and there are no complications attached to the file, then the Letters of Administration will be granted and issued accordingly.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.