It may interest you to know that a huge number of wealthy men/women do not do the proper thing to safeguard the interest of their surviving ones in the event that they are nowhere to be found. Many of them inadvertently end up enriching their various banks. So many families languishing in penury could not have been so assuming they have access to the wealth of their deceased loved ones.
A story is told of a man who has millions of naira in his account, yet not even his wife knew anything about his account. The family ended up losing all the wealth of the man upon his death as none could trace details of his wealth. The family had to even borrow to bury the man.
Most times also, when the bank gets to know of the person’s death, they remain mute to know if anyone can come for the deceased’s estate (wealth). After they had waited for some periods without response, they will convert the fund for themselves.
Assuming also that the person did the right thing before his death, how would you claim his entitlements?
This will take us to one thing to wit; WILL.
What is a Will?
It is easier if the deceased has Will prior to his death.
Will simply put is a written statement of how a person’s wealth and/ or properties (estate) should be shared in the event that he is dead. The issue of properties (estate) and how it is shared most times arises after the person’s death. Hardly will you see people jostling for properties of a living person.
Where the deceased has a Will, it is very simple. The Will should be read to the family members and everyone will then take his rightful portion from the deceased’s estate.
Letters of Administration
For a person to die intestate, it means that the person died without a Will. In such situation, whoever wants to claim the property of a person who dies intestate must apply for Letters of Administration. This Letter of Administration, if granted, will give whoever the Administrator is, the legal authority to administer the property of the deceased person.
This is one of the simplest forms of retrieving the entitlements (estate) of a deceased one without fight.
Letters of administration is usually made to the Probate Registry, which is a department in every High Court in a state.
Who Can Apply for Letters of Administration?
Section 49 of the Administration of Estate Law, Lagos lists in hierarchy, the people who can apply for Letters of Administration. They are;
- Surviving spouse(s) of the deceased
- Children of the deceased
- Parents of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood or the children of such brother or sister who died in the life time of the deceased.
- Brother or sister of the deceased of half-blood or the children of such brother or sister who died in the life time of the deceased
- Grandparents of the deceased
- Uncles and aunts of full blood or their children
How to Apply for Letters of Administration
Letters of administration is granted upon application by a person entitled either personally or through his legal practitioner to the Probate registrar – Section 20 of the Administration of Estate Laws, Lagos. Usually forms are issued to the applicant, to be returned, upon completion, to the probate registry.
Grant of letters of administration would not be made within three (3) months (in Lagos state) from the death of the testator where he died intestate and every application for grant of letters of administration are usually published to allow for objections and the filing of caveats.
It must be noted that letters of administration cannot be transferred or inherited. Furthermore, one person cannot be granted letters of administration. Section 24 of the Administration of Estate Laws, Lagos states that Administration shall not be granted to more than 4 (four) person in respect of the same property. It can only be granted to at least two people.
The only exception is where a Trust Corporation or the administrator general is appointed as sole administrator – Section 25 of the Administration of Estate Laws, Lagos.
Procedure for Application
The procedure for the application is as follows:
- Application is made to the probate registrar. The letter should contain the following;
– Full names of the deceased
– Date of death of the deceased
– Place of residence of the deceased shortly before his death
– Name of proposed administrators
- The application shall be accompanied with the death certificate. Upon submission of the application, then forms will be given. Such forms include;
– Oath of Administration by the applicants
– Particulars of landed property left by the deceased
– Administration Bond to ensure that the grantee makes proper inventory, distributes the estate accordingly and pays out of all just debts.
– Affidavit/Declaration as to next-of-kin
– Bank certificate
– Passport photographs of applicant
– Justification for sureties
– Schedule of debts and funeral expenses
- The forms upon filling them would be submitted
- Publication would be made in the gazette or newspaper. This, in essence, is to invite and give the public or any interested person the opportunity to object and file a caveat to the grant of letters of administration to the applicant.
- Objection may be raised within specified period for filing a caveat
- Once no objection, upon the payment of the estate duties, the letters of administration would be granted.
The following documents are to be attached;
- A copy of the National Identity Card of the deceased. (Or any other means of identification).
- The deceased Death Certificate.
- Means of identification of the administrators (persons applying).
In order to avoid putting your family through the process of applying for Letters of Administration when they are supposed to be in mourning, it is advisable to write a Will in your lifetime. This will make distribution of the deceased property easy and clear for all involved to see. Preparing a Will in a persons lifetime does not mean you desire death, it means planning in your own terms.
For further details and guidance, do well to consult a lawyer.
Intestacy: How to Recover the Property of a Loved One who Died without a Will
Written by Eze Gabriel
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