So many breadwinners/fathers died without a will. So was mine. It was February 10, 1995. A seemingly dark day for the nation. The hosting right for the 1995 Under 17 Football World Cup was withdrawn from Nigeria. That same day, my father was withdrawn from the surface of the earth. He died. Kaput! Just like that. Without Notice. No brief illness. No protracted illness. He simply died that night.
Oh, we were devastated! But more than that, his estate was in limbo. He didn’t plan his estate. This was strange. For a man who had survived the petals of the Civil war mortar shelling. Who had undergone several surgeries to live. Who was practically living on drugs. You would have thought he anticipated death. I guess he did. But I doubt if he expected sudden death.
Maybe he didn’t measure his achievements as much. Maybe his family was too young for estate planning. Maybe he knew practically nothing about estate planning. Whichever way, he did absolutely nothing to empower my mother, elder brother and the rest of us to take over and administer his estate.
He died without a will. He died intestate. He died, and left us powerless. We couldn’t access his money in bank, his shares, the buildings he erected, nothing. Safe his clothes, wrist watches, shoes and those very personal effects. Those clothes were very fine. But size was an issue.
We grew into some later. Some, we had already outgrown. Well, not me as a person, my elder brother. I was not very tall. He was not either. But mine was perculiar. But the real estate was in the danger of government control.
Did we suffer the consequences? Yes. Very grave consequences. The one I remember clearly is the role of one so called Family friend. He was a lawyer. He claimed he came to help. He approached the probate registry for us. But that was just the beginning of our troubles.
He kept fleecing us. He bleed us. He wringed us. He dried us. He pounded us. In fact, he raped our already shattered emotions. Gradually but with focus. When he was done with us, he left us high and dry. Each time I remember it, I shudder! If only my mother had the slightest idea of what to do, she would have done it herself.
If my elder brother knew how to go about it, he would have initiated the process. And heading that particular registry in my jurisdiction, I now realize that it was made in a way that anyone could do it.
There is nothing complex or mysterious about accessing what is described as Letters of Administration. The authority you get from government to access, manage, appropriate, use and ultimately, benefit from the estate of a late beloved relative. I repeat, it is not difficult.
This is a simple down to earth approach to acquiring the Letters of Administration from the Probate Registry of a State in the Eastern Part of Nigeria. It may not be exactly the same thing in every jurisdiction, but the differences are never substantial. The substance is practically the same. Implementation may vary a little. We focus on Abia State, Eastern Nigeria.
HE DIED WITHOUT A WILL: OBTAINING LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION IN ABIA STATE
Most people die without a making will, while some make a will before they die. Legally, when a person dies without a will, it is said that the person died intestate. In such a case it is through the issuance of Letters of Administration that an Administrator is appointed by the Court to administer the estate of the deceased person. This automatically entitle the administrator of the deceased’s, estate to all rights required for effective administration of the deceased estate.
When there is no executor listed in the willto execute same or the executor himself is no more alive, also where there is no will at all, or the executor is legally incapacitated to act, an application for grant of Letters of Administration is required.
The administrator is empowered by Letters of Administration to have access to all rights to the estate. He acts as legal representative for all purposes and all the property of the deceased person is vested in him. He is the rightful person to sue or prosecute any suit or otherwise act as representative of the deceased.
The procedure for granting of Letters of Administration is governed by the provisions of the Abia State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2014, and Administrator of Estate Law CAP 48 of Laws of Abia State.
HE DIED WITHOUT A WILL: REQUIREMENT FOR OBTAINING LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION IN ABIA STATE.
1. Death Certificate from a Government, recognized hospital or National Population Commission
2. Passport of the Applicant
2. Where there are discrepancies an affidavit to resolve the differences.
CONTENT OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION
1. Complete name of the Deceased.
2. Place of Death of the Deceased.
3. Date, month and year of the Deceased.
4. Name of the Applicant(s)
5. A true declaration of all personal property of the deceased and the value.
HE DIED WITHOUT A WILL: OBTAINING LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION IN ABIA STATE
An application for Letter of Administration is made to the Probate Registry upon the tendering of a valid death certificate from a Government recognizedHospital or Nigeria Population Commission (NPC). No grant of administration with the will annexed shall be issued within 7 days of the death of the deceased and no grant of administration without the will annexed, shall be issued within 14 days of such death.
Application of Letter of Administration may be through a Legal Practitioner or through an Applicant. Where a Legal Practitioner is applying on behalf of the applicant, he must give his address within the jurisdiction. A personal applicant is not allowed in law to apply through an agent or any person acting or appearing to act as his adviser.
2. PUBLICATION OF GAZETTE
After the application for Letter of Administration and the declaration of assets and next of kin, the death of the deceased and the application of Letter of Administration must be published in the newspaper and the government official’s gazette. The essence of the notices is for any person who has an objection for the grant of Letter of Administration to the applicant to raise objection within 14days of the publication.
The death of the deceased and the application is published in a newspaper and the government official gazette to notify anyone interested in the estate of the deceased that applications for Letter of Administration was received from the intending Administration. A period of 21 days is also allowed for anyone who wishes to raise an objection to grant of Letter of Administration. Anotice is also sent to the Local Government of the deceased for any objection to the grant. After the expiration of 21days and there is no objection raised against the said grant, the Probate Registry shall proceed to process the Letter of Administration.
This is applicable when there is a property involved. The property is to be valued according to the standard government rate and the 15% of the total value be paid to the government designated account.
5. ESTATE FEE
If the Probate Registry is convinced that all forms and application has been duly completed and executed, he will proceed to access fees payable on the estate of the decease based on the information contained in the inventory form.
6. GRANT OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION
Upon payment of the accessed fee into the government designated account and upon presentation of evidence of payment, Letters of Administration is granted to the Administrator(s). Where the accessed estate fee is too much for the applicants to pay, they can apply to the court by a motion on notice praying the court to have the accessed estate fee drawn directly from the deceased’s account and if the motion is granted, the accessed estate fee will be drawn directly from the deceased’s account.
FORMS USED IN OBTAINING OF LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION
1. Application Form
2. Inventory of movable and immovable assets of the deceased
3. Statutory Affidavit of Next of Kin
4. Oath of Administrator
5. Administration Bonds – Rule 34
6. Justification of Sureties
7. Bank Certificate – This is used to obtain details of the deceased bank account details.
HE DIED WITHOUT A WILL: THOSE QUALIFIED TO BE ISSUE LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION IN ORDER OF GREATER AFFINITY AND QUALIFICATION.
1. The surviving spouse of the deceased
2. The children of the deceased
3. The deceased’s parents
4. Siblings of the deceased.
5. Half-brother(s) or sister(s) of the deceased
6. Grand parents
7. Uncles and Aunts
So… In case you are in this type of position, don’t be despair. You canengage a lawyer. You also do it yourself. But if you follow thesesteps, you would most likely make substantial progress. Most importantly, don’t be ignorant.
The awareness for estate planning is growing. However, majority will still die without planning their estate. But you can start planning your own at once. We shall revisit this matter. In the interim, spread this message. A message of hope. My family eventually survived the treacherous acts of that enemy that disguised as a friend. That lawyer. I have forgiven him o! But…
How i Became a Lawyer at 6? Click Here