The loss of an adult life always precedes the start of the probate process. This has given probate a bittersweet outlook. The painful reminder that a loved one is no more mixed with the relief of making sure that their estate is rightfully managed. However, many people who seek probate do not fully understand it. One of the popular misconceptions is that one only needs a probate service when a deceased dies without a will. This is however false. One of the first questions asked is if the deceased died with a will or not. So whatever the case is, the probate process is modified to suit the circumstances of the case.
Before we dive into the different processes, we will explain in clear terms what probate is.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of administering a deceased’s last will and testament or the estate of a deceased without a will. It includes locating and determining the value of the person’s assets and paying any outstanding bills and taxes. Most importantly, it helps distribute the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries.
In Nigeria, the Probate Registry in every state, under the supervision of the High Court, has the exclusive jurisdiction to issue grants of probate and letters of administration in respect of dead people’s assets in that state.
What is a Grant of Probate and Letter of Administration?
A Grant of Probate is a legal instrument which provides the legal basis for the enforcement of the contents of the Will while a Letter of Administration is a document that bestows the right to supervise the liquidation and distribution of the deceased person’s estate on Administrators who have been appointed by the Court. Basically, a grant of probate or letter of administration is seen as conclusive evidence that Executors’/Administrators’ are legally recognised as the personal representatives of the Estate.
Now that we have established that probate services are a must irrespective of whether the deceased left a will or not, we will go on to see what happens in both situations.
What is Testate Probate Process?
When a person is said to have died testate, it means that they left behind a will. Usually in a will, the deceased appoints an executor for the will. Testate succession involves the issuance of a grant of probate to persons appointed by a deceased person in his Will.
There are specific procedures that must be followed before a grant of probate or letters of administration is issued to an applicant. These procedures are determined by the Probate Registry of that state. For example in Lagos State, the application forms for grant of probate consist of the following;
- Bank certificate
- Application for grant of probate of the Will
- Oath for Executor/s
- Affidavit of the attesting witness of the Will
- Inventory of assets
- Particulars of leasehold/freehold properties left by the deceased
- A schedule of debts and funeral expenses
What is the Intestate Probate Process?
A deceased dies intestate when he or she passes on without writing a will. While the procedure outlined above applies here, the difference is that an application for letters of administration has to be made. This is because the deceased person did not write a Will to guide the administration of his/her estate, hence the state will have to do so on behalf of the deceased.
What you need to apply for a letter of administration
It is important to note that not just anyone can apply for the letters of administration. The Probate Registry usually considers the provisions of the Law. The provision which states the order of distribution of an intestate’s assets with the spouse and children of the deceased person.
The application forms for letters of administration consist of the following;
- Bank certificate
- Application for letters of administration
- Oath for administration
- Administration bond
- Declaration as to next of kin form
- Inventory of assets form
- Particulars of freehold/leasehold properties left by the deceased
- Schedule of debts and funeral expenses.
How Africa Prudential can handle your Probate Process
The probate process is not a day’s walk. It takes an average of 4 to 6 months to obtain a grant of probate or letters of administration. However, the electronic filing system has made the process faster. Once the applicant fills all the forms and returns with accompanying documents to the probate registry. The estate duty payment is made upon the issuance of the assessment/pay sheet. At Africa Prudential, we have a team of capable legal personnel that can help probate services. Simply send an email to email@example.com or call 0700 23747783 to apply for probate services and we will walk you through how to do it best.