PRO-BONO LEGAL ADVICE – IN RESPECT TO THE PROCEDURE FOR THE GRANT OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION
Dear Pro-bono Partner,
My name is Richard Olusegun, I am a 19 years old 400L student of Mechanical Engineering at the Lagos State University (LASU). I am the only surviving child of my parents. My father died sometime in September, 2015 without a Will. He was also survived by his father, and his brother.
After my father’s death, his brother uncle Martins, insisted on obtaining the Letters of Administration on the grounds that I am still a minor and would not be able to administer my father’s estate. He promised me that the administration of the estate would be transferred to me once I attain the age of 21 at which time I would have graduated from the University. He also informed me that with my disqualification on account of age, he is the next-of-kin in the order of priority to be granted the Letters of Administration.
I am not comfortable with this idea and I don’t think I can trust my Uncle with my father’s estate. Considering my age, I want to know if I am entitled by law to a grant of the said Letters of Administration, and if so, the appropriate procedure to follow in procuring same.
Please I need your advice.
I appreciate your effort to reach out to me on this sensitive issue.
Firstly, being 19 years old, you are no longer regarded as a minor. In Nigeria, a minor is a person who is yet to attain the age of 18. Therefore, your uncle’s position that you are still a minor and as such cannot apply for the Letters of Administration over your late father’s estate has no basis in law and should be discountenanced.
Secondly, in many States of the Federation, the order of priority for the grant of Letters of Administration is set out in the various High Court Civil Procedure Rules and Administration of Estate Laws.
Section 49(1) of the Administration of Estate Law Lagos State (which is similar to what is obtainable in the states) lays some guidelines on the order of priority of persons who could be granted Letters of Administration. These persons are:
- Husband or wife of the deceased
- Children of the deceased or the surviving issue of a child who died in the lifetime of the deceased.
- Father or mother of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood and the children of such brother or sister who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters of half-blood of the deceased or the children of any such half brother or sister who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Grandfather or grandmother of the deceased
- Uncles and Aunts of full blood or their children
- Creditors of the deceased
- Administrator General (where all the preceding fail)
From the above provisions of the law, it is clear that as the only surviving child of your late father, you take priority and exclusive right to the estate of your late father. Furthermore, even if you were still a minor, by virtue of Section 49(1) (c) of the Administration of Estate Law Lagos, your grandfather would still take priority over your Uncle in the grant of Letters of Administration.
Having clarified the issues of age and priority in the grant of administration of your late father’s estate, I would therefore proceed to advice you on the procedure to obtain the Letters of Administration as follows:
- Make an official application in writing, addressed to the probate registry, probate division of the High Court.
- The probate registry will issue you printed application form upon payment of the application fee.
- Complete the form and attach your passport photograph.
- Return the printed application form and pay the publication fee.
- Provide along with the form a copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
- After making the payment, ensure the registry publishes the application. The application is not done individually but in batches of about 30 applications.
- The publication remains in circulation for 21 days within which objections need to be registered if any before the process continues.
- If you want the Letters of Administration in respect of money in the bank account of a deceased person, the following is required:
- You have to visit your father’s bank to ascertain if you are the next of kin.
- If you are, you will go to court with his death certificate to obtain what is called a probate letter.
- Once obtained, you take it to the bank with the following:
- death certificate of your father.
- All account details of your father: account name, nature of the account, (current, saving, fixed deposit, etc), bank verification number, and others.
- An application letter informing the bank that your father is late, with your passport photograph attached to it.
Note: the law was made to ensure that the wishes of the deceased person are obeyed and to ensure the unscrupulous elements do not hijack the estates of your father.
I wish you best of luck.
Yvonne Ugonma Dozie (Probono – Partner)