Issuance Of Letters Of Administration In Nigeria – A Practical Approach

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Families are usually distraught when a loved one dies, so much so that they most often do not realize that certain rights enure to their benefit upon the death of such a person.
Nigeria Family and Matrimonial
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Families are usually distraught when a loved one dies, so much so that they most often do not realize that certain rights enure to their benefit upon the death of such a person. One of the rights or the position family members tend to occupy because of their relationship with a deceased member is that of a "personal representative" by operation of law.

A personal representative is a person, appointed by will or the court, to administer the deceased's estate. The personal representative may be the executor, who is the person named as such in the deceased's will, or it may be the successor to the executor or an administrator appointed by the court where the deceased died without a will naming an executor. 1

Thus, personal representatives are usually able to take steps in respect of the estate of a deceased person and can apply for the issuance of letters of administration over the estate of a deceased person. This paper focuses on the procedure for obtaining a letter of administration in Nigeria, using Lagos State as a case study.

Letter of Administration.

A letter of administration is the formal authorization given by the Probate Court to a person known as the administrator or administratrix to oversee the assets of a person who passed away intestate. When someone passes away without leaving behind a legally binding Will, this is known as dying intestate. When the letters of administration are not awarded, the properties of the deceased are presumed to be vested in the Chief Judge of the State.2 The administrator then derives his or her authority to act from the terms of the letters of administration.3

Once the letters of administration have been granted to an administrator or administratrix, he/she is vested with the powers to legally take steps to administer the estate of the deceased for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Where a person has not obtained letters of administration, such a person can not purport to act in any administrative capacity over an estate.4

Persons who are entitled to apply for letters of administration.

When a person dies intestate, the personal representatives are the persons who are by law expected to apply to the Probate Court to issue them with a letter of administration to administer the estate of the deceased. For example, the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos5 stipulates that: -

"In granting administration, the court shall have regard to the rights of all persons interested in the estate of the deceased person or the proceeds of sale thereof, and, in particular, administration with the will annexed may be granted to a devisee or legatee, and any such administration may be limited in any way the court thinks fit............"

Furthermore, the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos6 sets out the order of priority of persons who could be granted Letters of Administration which takes into consideration the immediate family, extended family, and other persons depending on the circumstances of the issuance of the letter. The list of these persons is surmised below: -

  • Spouses married under the Matrimonial Causes Act
  • Spouses married under Customary law
  • Children of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased
  • Full siblings of the deceased
  • Half-siblings of the deceased
  • Grandparents of the deceased
  • Uncles and aunts of the deceased
  • The Administrator-General of the state where the estate of the deceased is located
  • Creditors of the deceased

Procedure/Documents required for application for issuance of letters of administration over an estate.

An application for letters of administration in Lagos State is usually made online, where the applicant is usually required to upload all the documents and information listed below: -

Commencement stage of the Application.

  • Duly completed Application form
  • Formal letter of application
  • Payment of Statutory and Administrative Fees (To be assessed)
  • Details of the Deceased which include: -

a. Death Certificate;

b. One (1) passport photograph;

c. Bank(s) where the deceased-maintained accounts (Name of Bank, Account Number, and Branch);

d. Companies where the deceased held shares and the number of shares held; and

e. Evidence of ownership of property within Lagos State (as well as the estimated value of each).

  • Details of at least two (2) proposed Administrators: -

a. Names and addresses;

b. Valid means of Identification (Driver's License, Passport Data page, National Identification Card or Voter's Card);

c. Two (2) passport photographs each; and

d. Occupation

  • Where necessary, the details of the deceased's relatives (Parents, Siblings, Uncles, and Aunt) may be required such as: -

a. Names and addresses; and

b. Whether deceased or living.

The above information though not exhaustive as it may change from time to time is required to be uploaded when filling out the online application forms on the Lagos State Probate Registry website. Once the forms have been filled, they are to be printed and signed in ink by the proposed administrators before they are submitted to the probate registry for evaluation, payment of statutory fees for the form, and the issuance of a bank certificate.

The bank certificate is to be taken to all financial institutions and companies where the deceased had an interest before his demise for endorsement of the value of his interest. Once returned to the registry at this stage, the estate fees are usually assessed at a percentage of the entire value of the estate and must be paid by the Applicants before proceeding to the advanced stages of the application.

The applicant must pay special attention and ensure that the application forms are filled in accurately as the registry may refuse to accept the forms in the event of any mistake no matter how minor. This disposition according to the registry is to prevent fraudulent applications.

Advanced Stages of the Application.

  • As the application proceeds, there will be a minimum requirement of the details of two (2) Sureties who will stand as guarantors to the proposed Administrators of the Estate. The information that will be required from them is as follows:
    1. Names and addresses;
    2. Means of Identification (Driver's License, Passport Data page, National Identification Card, or Voter's Card);
    3. Two (2) passport photographs each;
    4. Bank Statement of the Sureties;
    5. Evidence of ownership of property within Lagos State; and
    6. Affidavit of Means.

Once the above has been provided, the applicant is to liaise with the registry to get a date for a physical interview of the proposed administrators and the sureties. If the interview is successful, the Probate Registry will publish the application in newspapers with sufficient circulation in the relevant jurisdiction where the application is to receive any objection to the grant of the application. The objector will have to indicate by filing a caveat.

This publication period is to last for twenty-one days and no more and if no objection to the grant of the letters of administration is received, the registry is to prepare the letters of administration for review and approval by the probate registrar and the probate judge following which the letters of administration will be formally issued to the applicant.


Ultimately, deceased persons who have assets belonging to them in their lifetime for which they were unable to dispose of, can have their assets distributed and managed for the benefit of their dependents, if they had any. Where a deceased person has no dependents or relatives, then the estate will vest in the relevant state government.

The process and procedure for the issuance of letters of administration over an estate seem straightforward but it requires a great deal of attention and meticulousness to avoid repeating any stage of the application such as filling out the application forms and having them signed afresh. Some of these pitfalls include but are not limited to the following: wrong information in the form, inconsistency in the signature of the proposed administrators, invalid means of identification, and unavailability of an administrator at the advanced stages of the application among many others.

It is hoped that this piece has provided enough insights into the rudiments of making an application for the issuance of letters of administration, particularly in Lagos State. The approach may be different in other States in Nigeria.


1. accessed on 21 April 2023.

2. accessed on 22 April 2023.

3. Ibid.

4. Arije V. Arije (2010) LPELR-4566(CA).

5. Section 26 (1) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos.

6. Section 49 (1) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos.

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.

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