Grant of Letters Of Administration in Nigeria

Contributor: Joy Ayara Esq.

INTRODUCTION

Mr.  Ojo and Mr. Gbenga are best of friends who reside in Abuja and Lagos respectively. They were of the belief that writing/having a will was a sure way to get a death call. Unfortunately, they were involved in a ghastly motor accident on their way on a business trip that took their lives on the spot. They both died without making a will. The situation of their death has raised the issues as to how their estate will be shared amongst their survivors.

Regardless of their reasons for not making a will, their families are desirous of getting legal authorization and access to the estate to prevent disagreement and misunderstanding. They have been advised by a family friend who is a lawyer, that they can legally access the estate of the deceased by obtaining 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 in Nigeria, 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.

In the case of Ugu v Tobi[1], it was held that “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”.

TYPES OF GRANTS OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION:

  1. 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, or when they have refused to act as executors.
  2. Grant of Letter of Administration Without Will Annexed: Where the deceased died intestate, (without making a will) or where some part of his estate was not covered by a will and there is no residual clause, or where the will is declared invalid.[2]

WHEN IS A GRANT OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION NEEDED?

A grant of letter of administration is needed in the following instances:

  1. Where the deceased did not make a will.
  2. Where the will existing is deemed invalid.
  3. Where the deceased did not name executors in the will.
  4. Where the named executors are unwilling or are incapable of carrying out their duties.

WHO IS ENTITLED TO APPLY FOR A GRANT OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION?

The persons who can apply for a letter of administration are generally called next of kin. In order of priority, the following persons are entitled to apply[3];

  1. Surviving spouse of the deceased.
  2. Children/ grandchildren of the deceased.
  3. Parents of the deceased.
  4. Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood, or the children of such brother or sister who died in the lifetime of the deceased.
  5. Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood, or the children of such brother or sister who died in the lifetime of the deceased.
  6. Grandparents of the deceased.
  7. Aunts/Uncles of the deceased.
  8. Creditors of the deceased.
  9. Administrator-General.

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) Rules, 2019.

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;

  1. An application for a Letter of Administration is to be made by the applicant personally or by his/her solicitor to the Probate Registry.
  2. These documents are to be attached to the application form;
    1. Deceased’s death certificate.
    2. Payment Form.
    3. Affidavit/Declaration as to Next of Kin.
    4. Oath of Administration by the applicants.
    5. Bank Certificate (where necessary).
    6. Inventory.
    7. Administration Bond.
    8. Sureties Guarantor Form.
    9. Passport of the applicants.
    10. Justification for sureties.
    11. Schedule of debts and funeral expenses.
  3. The application is duly screened and formally approved by the Probate Registry.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 A 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. However, the Will be annexed in this situation.

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.

COST FOR APPLICATION FOR LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION

Before a request for a letter of administration can be reviewed and accepted, a number of fees must be paid. An estate charge of 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the estate’s value, depending on the state, must be paid to the state government where the letters of administration application were made and authorized after the Probate Registry has approved them.

CONCLUSION

Since death is inevitable and the time of death is uncertain, it is advised that a person make a will while alive. However, where a will is not made, the family can resort to the probate registry to legally access and distribute the estate of the deceased. This way, misunderstanding can be mitigated.

REFERENCE

  1. (1997)LPELR-S241/1992
  2. Section 47 Administration of Estate Law of Lagos state
  3. Section 49(1) Administration of Estate Law

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