One of the features of human beings is the ability to die. Death is the end of the physical existence of a human being and this brings some legal challenges. It creates questions like, what happens to the property of a dead person (deceased), what happens where there is no WILL and who takes over ownership and management of the property of a dead person? To save the living some stress, it is advisable to make a valid WILL before death. This work focuses on how to obtain powers and control (letters of administration) over the property of a dead person that died without a WILL. The case study here is Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, however, the same/similar processes and procedures are obtainable in all the states across Nigeria.
Forms and Procedures for Letters of Administration.
Although everyone is encouraged to make a WILL at all times, since death comes like a thief in the night, not everyone will die with a WILL. Also, there may be new property acquired after a WILL or omitted from a WILL. So, there is a chance for the management and control of the property of a person that died without a WILL. The bad news is that, where there is no WILL, the persons to takeover and benefit from the property of a dead person, may not be the persons that the dead person would have appointed as beneficiaries, if the dead person had made a WILL. So, it is better to always have a valid WILL.
However, Where a person dies without a WILL, the surviving family members of the dead person can approach the Probate Registry to obtain power and control over the property of the dead person.
It is always advisable to engage the services of a legal practitioner ahead of a visit to a Probate Department, so that the lawyer offers a detailed guidance all through the entire process. The Probate Departments in Nigeria are located in the state High Courts at the thirty-six (36) states in Nigeria. Probate Departments are established to handle matters of WILL, letters of execution (this power is given where there is a WILL) and letters of administration (this power is given where there is no WILL).
The surviving family members of a dead person are to visit the Probate Department of the High Court in charge of the area where the dead person resided.
The following information and documents are needed by a Probate Department for it to give power and control over property of a dead person to family members of the dead person. The family members seeking such power and control must provide;
- Death Certificate (Original and Photocopy) from Hospital or National Population Commission. The original copy is for physical sighting.
- A letter of introduction of Next of Kin from the deceased office. (The Next of Kin must be the closest living relatives/family members of the deceased)
- A minimum of 2 next of kin (wife to come with marriage certificate, passports photographs and with any of her children that is above 18 years). The child must come in person with one passport photograph each and photocopy of his/her means of identification (International Passport, Work I.D. National I.D card, Voters Card, etc.)
- Two sureties that are resident in Abuja or any state, (who must come in person) are persons that are above the age of 18 years with traceable home addresses and places of work. Every Surety must come with one passport photograph and a photocopy of his/her means of identification (International Passport, Work I.D. National I.D card, Voters Card, etc.)
- The name of the pensioner’s managers of the deceased and PEN number must be provided (if there is a pension).
- Name(s) of the bank account of the deceased and account number and bank branch, must be provided. Since there is Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) in Nigeria now, it may be helpful to have such number to ensure that no bank account of a deceased person is left out.
- Document of landed property (if the deceased had any).
- Share certificates (if the deceased has any. Certificates and proofs of any other property whatsoever (including credits owed the deceased, royalties, franchise, star registrations, trademarks, patents, golds and jewelries).
- The following complex documents are also needed; The Probate Application Form; Declaration of Next of Kin Form; Oath of Administration. etc.