First things first, the Letter of Administration (LOA) is only required if a deceased person died without writing an official will. Many people make this mistake. LOA is not needed if the deceased has a will in the custody of his/her lawyer or the Probate Registry.
A Letter of Administration in Nigeria is a legal document that grants authority to an ‘Administrator’ or ‘Administratrix’ to manage the property or estate of a person who died intestate (without a will). An administratrix can only act in strict accordance with what the LOA spells out – the LOA is like a unique constitution in every unique case.
This article will look at the various touchpoints associated with Letters of Administration, and also a step-by-step guide on how to apply for the letter from the Probate Court.
Things You Must Know Before Applying for a Letter of Administration
Here are a few things one must know before going to apply for a Letter of Administration in any Probate Court in any state in Nigeria:
- Always maintain the official BVN name of the deceased in ANY document you are filling
- Make sure to get the Nigeria Population Commission’s (NPC) death certificate even after receiving the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death issued at the hospital
- Do not apply if the deceased had an official will in custody of their lawyer/probate before death. You don’t need it.
- Do not apply for a Letter of Administration more than once in respect of a particular deceased.
- Only one relative/person cannot be granted a LOA alone unless appointed by the law court
- If things seem too complicated, seek legal advice
Who is eligible or qualified to apply for a Letter of Administration?
As stated by the relevant Estate Laws, only certain persons are eligible to apply for LOAs and become administrators of an estate. These persons are arranged in a hierarchy of perceived closeness to the deceased when he/she was alive. These persons are generally regarded as Next-of-Kins. The hierarchy may vary from state to state but here is a typical arrangement:
- Surviving spouse(s) of the deceased
- Children of the deceased
- Parents of the deceased
- Full blood siblings of the deceased/children of such sibling who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Half blood sibling of the deceased/children of such sibling who died in the lifetime of the deceased
- Grandparents of the deceased
- Full blood aunts or uncles of the deceased or their children
Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for a Letter of Administration
Having listed the persons that are eligible to lodge in an application for an LOA on behalf of a particular deceased, we can now dive into the step-by-step procedure the qualified/appointed administrator can use in applying for the LOA.
Usually, forms are given to the qualified/appointed applicant to be filled and returned to the Probate Registry on completion.
The court usually gives a few months’ grace before granting administratorship of a Letter of Administration. The court also makes an effort to publish the grant of the LOA in the dailies to ensure that everybody is carried along to allow for objections from anybody who feels the court has made a wrong decision. The grant cannot be passed on to other persons.
- The eligible/appointed administratrix will make a written application to the probate registrar. The letter must be precise with the following details:
– Full official names of the deceased as it appears on their BVN
– Date of death of the deceased
– Most recent address of the deceased before death
– Name of proposed administrators
– Particulars of landed property left by the deceased
– Death certificate number (a copy of the death certificate should also be attached to the application letter)
- On receipt of the application letter, the Probate Court will issue the following forms to the proposed qualified/appointed administrators to fill:
– Oath of Administration by the applicants
– Administration Bond (to ensure that eventual administrators take a proper record and just redistribution the deceased’s assets.
– Sworn affidavit as next-of-kin
– Bank certificate
– Inventory of assets
– Passport photographs of applicants
– Justification for sureties
– Schedule of debts and funeral expenses
- Fill and submit forms to the Probate Court
- The decision where the suitable administrator(s) would be published in any of the national dailies.
- If the Probate Court does not record any objection to the decision after a stipulated time, the Letter of Administration would be ISSUED.
Thereafter, the LOA can now be taken to the deceased’s banks to facilitate the opening of an estate account. Once the estate account is opened, the deceased balance can be then moved to the estate account.
How much does it cost to get a Letter of Administration?
Apart from the various small fees you get to pay for ‘this and that’, the Probate Registry charges a flat rate between 5% – 10% of the entire value (or estimated value) of the estate.
Personally, I feel the Nigerian Estate Law can be a bit simpler than this if a more digital approach can be taken. The current LOA processing is long and agonizing. A more digital approach to form-filling, payments, and the suitability of administrators can result in faster and seamless LOA processing.