The issue of administration
of an estate is usually post-mortem. That is why many property owners with
dependents and all adults in general are encouraged to write a Will while they
are still alive. However, despite the push for more Will drafting, many still
hold reservations to the act.

The factors responsible for
this skepticism may include:

1.     Religious

2.     Procrastination

3.     Ignorance

4.     Morbid

It must be appreciated that
when a person leaves a will, he or she makes it easier for the beneficiaries to
receive, with zero stress, the intended gift of the testator. Also, the court
house is spared from all the battles on who has the most legitimate claim to
the property. The benefits of writing a Will are undoubtedly considerable, as
opposed to not writing.

But what then is the effect
of leaving a property without a will? In such cases there may be frequent
visits to the court house, abuse of property by family members, unfair
dominance of certain persons over others, bad blood between family members,
unnecessary interference by outsiders over private family affairs, and the list
goes on.

Fortunately, many states in
Nigeria have promulgated or adopted modern laws on the Administration of
estates which enables the court to interpret the stance of the law on how the
estates should be administered in the absence of a will.

The Lagos Administration of
Estate Law would be relied on for the purpose of this article.

The Administration of Estate
Law of Lagos State 2004 in section 2 defines an intestate person as one who
dies without making a will and this includes a person who dies intestate as to
some beneficial interest in his real or personal estate not contained in the
will. In other words, an estate or property not included in a will, whether by
omission or intentionally, would deem the deceased owner intestate as it
concerns that particular property. 

When a person dies testate,
personal representatives of the deceased are easily identifiable; this is a
direct contrast with a case of intestacy where the personal representatives are
appointed by the court in accordance with the law. Those who consider
themselves to be personal representatives of the deceased are mandated to apply
for Letters of Administration.

Who is can be a personal
representative in the case of intestacy?

Under Section 49 AEL persons
who are entitled to grant of letters of administration in order of priority

Surviving Spouse

Children of the Deceased or the issues of the
children of the deceased (who died before the deceased)

Parents of the deceased

Brothers and sisters of the deceased of full
blood and their surviving children

Brothers and Sisters of the deceased of
half-blood and their surviving children that are sui juris

Grandparents of the deceased

Uncles and Aunties of whole blood or their
surviving children

Creditors of the intestate estate

Any of these persons
approved by the government shall be deemed “Administrator of Estate”

It is important to note that
under Section 49 AEL, every application for letters of administration is
usually published in a gazette, to enable any other person interested enter the
appropriate caveat. Consequently, letter of administration shall not be granted
until a specified period of time (usually determined by relevant law or rules
of court in the state of application) has elapsed and where there is a caveat,
shall not be granted during the period of such caveat unless the caveator
refuses or neglects to respond to citation.

Essay Palmer

Legal Practitioner

Adedunmade Onibokun &