Letter of Administration
LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION: HOW TO ASSUME CONTROL OF THE ESTATE OF A DECEASED PERSON (1)
If someone has died and has left behind money in the bank, landed properties or personal belongings, and you want to take over these assets, or want to administer, manage, distribute, or sell off the assets; the following is a guide on the procedure to obtain the letter of administration and assume control of the estate of the deceased.
What You Should Note
The estate of the deceased is vested in the Chief Judge of the State. Before you can take over or assume control over the estate of someone who has died, you have to first obtain the letter of administration from the Probate Court to become the administrator of the deceased’s estate. Without being appointed the administrator, meddling with the estate of the Deceased is illegal and you may face civil and criminal liabilities.
How long does it take to obtain letter of administration?
A letter of administration may be granted after 14 days, where the deceased died intestate (i.e. without leaving a valid Will); or 7 days where there is partial intestacy. Partial intestacy may arise where there is the absence of a residuary clause in a valid Will; or where the testator (the deceased) does not have executors to carry out his instruction as contained in the Will. Not having executor(s) may arise where the deceased made a Will without appointing executors; or the executors who he appointed had died; or the executors are underage; or the executors are resident abroad, have refused to act, or have renounced the probate.
Who Is Entitled to Obtain the Letter of Administration over the Deceased Estate?
Where the deceased had married his spouse under the Marriage Act (what in layman’s term is known as “White Wedding” or “Court Marriage”), he is not subject to the traditional practice of inheritance or succession principle under his native law and custom. In other words, the distribution and inheritance of his property or succession to his estate will be based on the Administration of Estate Law, and not according to the local traditions and native laws and customs of the locality he hailed from.
The following is the order of priority of persons entitled to the letter of administration (i.e. with Will annexed):
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1. The executor;
2. Any residuary legatee holding in trust for any other person (that is, where the residuary estate is subject to a trust);
3. Any residuary legatee or devisee for life;
4. The ultimate residuary legatee or devisee, including one entitled on the happening of any contingency;
5. Any specific legatee or devisee or creditor or their personal representative;
6. Any specific legatee or devisee entitled on the happening of any contingency, or next-of-kin.
The order of priority of persons entitled to grant of letters of administration in intestate succession (i.e. without Will attached) are as follows:
The surviving spouse
Children of the deceased or grandchildren of the deceased whose parent died during the lifetime of the deceased.
Father or mother of the deceased.
Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood
Half Brother(s) and sister(s) of the Deceased.
Grandfather or grandmother of the deceased.
Uncles and Aunts.
Creditors of the deceased.
How to Obtain Letter of Administration (With Will Attached)
Where the deceased died testate (with a valid Last Will), you need to consult a Solicitor to make an application on your behalf to obtain the Letter of Administration. The Solicitor shall satisfy the Probate Registrar about the reason for the absence of the executor that was appointed by the deceased in his Will. The Solicitor shall lead evidence to prove that the executor is dead, or he renounced his executorship, or he is an infant, or he is abroad and has appointed an attorney to apply for the grant, any of these facts must be proved by tendering the relevant documents. Thereafter, the Probate Registrar shall inspect the Will to ensure that it was properly executed and attested.
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How to Obtain Letter of Administration (Without Will Attached)
In some states, the law prescribes a minimum of 2 persons and maximum of 4 persons to administer the estate of the deceased, except predicated on a legal exception. Thus, if you and 1 or 3 other family members fall suitably amongst the persons listed above in their order of priority, what you need to do to obtain the Letter of Administration where the deceased had died intestate (without leaving a valid Last Will) is to consult a specialist Solicitor who will make an application to the Probate Registrar on your behalf.
What Documents Are Required for the Grant of Letter of Administration?
At the consultation with a Solicitor, you will need to present the originals of the following documents:
Death Certificate of the deceased obtained from the National Population Commission
Marriage Certificate/Affidavit of Marriage of the deceased and his spouse
Certified True Copy of the deceased record of service (if he was a public officer and you want to receive his salary/pension arrears)
Retirement Letter/Pension ID Card (if the deceased was a pensioner)
Passport photographs and valid means of identification of you and other proposed administrators
You will further provide the following details: Full names of the deceased; Date of birth of the deceased; Last known address of the deceased; Occupation of the deceased; Marital status of the deceased; Name of deceased’ spouse and children (if any); Date and place of death of the deceased; Your name and the names of the other proposed administrators; Relationship between the deceased and you and other proposed administrators).
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Actions Solicitor Will Take to Obtain the Letter of Administration:
Authority to Act. After due consultation and evaluation of the documents and information you have provided, you’ll need to sign the Solicitor’s letter of authority to act on your behalf in connection with the subject matter.
Application. Solicitor shall submit a formal application to the Probates Registry in the prescribed form and may accompany same with copies of the documents listed above as well as the following documents:
Oath of Administration (with or without Will attached)
Administration Bonds (with or without Will attached)
Renunciation of administration (Will attached)
Statutory Affidavit of the next of kin
Inventory of moveable and immovable assets of the deceased
Schedule of Debts owed by the deceased
Justification of sureties
Particulars of freehold/leasehold property left by the deceased.
Schedule of Funeral Expenses of the deceased
Bank or Share Certificate (showing the balances of the deceased’s bank account(s) or company shareholding, respectively)