Mr. XYZ has just died. He was the typical Nigerian who believed that writing/having a will was a sure way to get death calling and has therefore died intestate(without a will) or probably he had written a will without naming executors or he had named executors who are unwilling or incapable of carrying out their duties(partial intestacy). Regardless of the reason for Mr. XYZ’s intestacy, his family is desirous of getting legal authorization and access to the estate and therefore needs a Letter of Administration.
This article sets out the requirements and procedures for a grant of letter of administration under the Administration of Estate Laws and High Court Civil Procedure Rules of the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos State.
WHAT IS A LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION?
It is the legal instrument issued by the Probate Registry which grants and evidences the right of an administrator to manage/dispose or administer the estate of a deceased person.
A Letter of administration is not transferable and cannot be inherited, it also does not convey title in the estate to the named administrator although he may deal with the estate of the deceased legally. UGU V TOBI ((1997)LPELR-S241/1992
WHO IS ENTITLED TO APPLY FOR A GRANT OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION?
In order of priority, the following persons are entitled to apply;
1. Surviving spouse of the deceased.
2. Children/ grandchildren of the deceased.
3. Parents of the deceased.
4. Siblings of the deceased.
5. Grandparents of the deceased.
6. Aunts/Uncles of the deceased.
7. Creditors of the deceased.
WHEN IS A GRANT OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION NEEDED?
A grant of letter of administration is needed in the following instances:
- Where the deceased did not make a will,
- Where the will existing is deemed invalid.
- Where the deceased did not name executors in the will
- Where the named executors are unwilling or are incapable of carrying out their duties.
TYPES OF GRANT OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION:
- Grant of Letter of Administration With Will Annexed: This is issued where the deceased died partially intestate(having a will) but failed to appoint executors or where the appointed executors are incapable of carrying out their duties.
- Grant of Letter of Administration Without Will Annexed: Where the deceased died intestate, a Letter of Administration is issued.
TIME FRAME FOR GRANT:
In Lagos State, a grant of Letter of Administration with a Will annexed can only be issued after fourteen (14) days of the deceased’s death while a grant of Letter of Administration without the Will annexed can only be issued after twenty-one(21) days of the deceased’s death. Order 16 Rule 1(2)Lagos State High Court(Civil Procedures) Rule2019.
In the Federal Capital Territory, no grant of Letter of Administration with a Will annexed shall issue within seven(7) days of the death of the deceased; and no grant of Letter of Administration without a Will Annexed shall issue within fourteen(14) days of the death. Order 62 Rule 1(3) High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja(Civil Procedure) Rules 2018.
Note that the timeline for completion of application and grant of Letter of Administration is usually about 3-5 months.
PROCEDURE/REQUIREMENTS FOR OBTAINING LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION WITHOUT WILL ANNEXED.
Where a person who was subject to the jurisdiction of the Court dies, all petitions for grant of Letters Of Administration of the deceased estate are to be made to the Probate Registrar of the Court in the following manner;
- An application for a Letter of Administration is to be made by the applicant personally or by his/her solicitor to the Probate Registry.
- These documents are to be attached to the application form;
- Deceased’s death certificate
- Payment Form
- Affidavit/Declaration as to Next of Kin.
- Oath of Administration by the applicants
- Bank Certificate(where necessary)
- Administration Bond
- Sureties Guarantor Form
- Passport of the applicants
- Justification for sureties
- Schedule of debts and funeral expenses.
- The application is duly screened and formally approved by the Probate Registry
- Notice of the application and claim is to be published in a National Newspaper, thereafter a period of 21 days is given to allow for objections to the application. A person objecting to the grant is expected to enter a Caveat within the 21 days.
- At the expiration of the 21 days and where no Caveat is entered, Minutes and Order would be prepared and sent to the Probate Judge for approval.
- Where approval is duly given by the Probate Judge, the Letters of Administration would be signed and issued by the probate registrar.
Note; In a highly commendable move by the Lagos State Judiciary, the procedure for application and grant of Letter of Administration has been automated so applicants are to simply log onto https://probate.lagosjudiciary.gov.ng, create an account and follow the steps outlined. (It is highly advised that a legal practitioner be consulted to ensure efficiency).
PROCEDURE/REQUIREMENTS FOR OBTAINING LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION WITH WILL ANNEXED
The procedure and requirements are the same as the procedures and requirements for obtaining a Letter of Administration without will annexed.
NOTE: Upon the death of a deceased person, his/her estate is vested in the Chief Judge of the State. Following this, it is mandatory to obtain a letter of administration in order to become the administrator of the estate. Meddling with the estate of the deceased without due authorization is illegal and may give rise to criminal and civil liabilities.
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