Letters of Administration is a document issued by the High Court of a State[1] appointing two (2) or more persons to administer the estate or property of a deceased person who died intestate. There are several other circumstances where Letters of Administration may be required – these will be discussed below.

In Nigeria, each State has enacted an Administration of Estates Law to govern Letters of Administration and administer the estates of deceased persons. Furthermore, the Civil Procedure Rules of the High Court of each State make provisions for the procedure for obtaining Letters of Administration. The relevant regulations for administration of estates in Lagos State are the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State[2] and the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019.

The Administrators derive the authority to act for the deceased from the Letters of Administration and until Letters of Administration are obtained, the properties of the deceased are deemed to vest in the Chief Judge of the State.

Who can apply for Letters of Administration?

Section 49 (1) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State lists certain categories of persons who can apply for Letters of Administration and such persons are referred to as the ‘next-of-kin’ who may apply in an order of priority. The order of priority for the application for Letters of Administration depicts the order in which the interested persons who are alive and willing to apply for Letters of Administration can apply and is as follows:

  1. Surviving spouse(s) of the deceased 
  2. Children of the deceased or the issues of such children that died before the deceased
  3. Parents of the deceased
  4. Brothers or sisters of the deceased of full blood or the children of such brother or sister who died in the life time of the deceased. 
  5. Brother or sister of the deceased of half-blood or the children of such brother or sister who died in the life time of the deceased
  6. Grandparents of the deceased
  7. Uncles and aunts of full blood or their children
  8. Uncles’ and aunts of half blood
  9. Creditors of the deceased
  10. Administrator General

Where there are people of equal priority who are willing to apply for the Letters of Administration, the court has a discretion to select any person who in its view is most suitable.

Grant of Letters of Administration

As previously mentioned, Letters of Administration may be granted where a deceased died without a valid Will or without making any binding declarations with respect to his/her estate (commonly referred to as to total intestacy), However, Letters of Administration may also be granted in any of the following instances:

  1. Partial intestacy: Partial intestacy occurs where a deceased leaves a valid Will, but such Will does not dispose of all of his or her estate and there is no residuary clause covering that part of the estate. Furthermore, it also applies where properties of the deceased in the Will are not bequeathed to any beneficiary, where the deceased acquires properties after making the Will or the gift in the Will fails. Intestacy rules may therefore, apply to any part of the estate not covered by the Will.
  • Administration with Will annexed: This occurs where the person or persons appointed as executor or executors in the Will have renounced probate or are unable to take up the role due to mental or physical infirmity or are out of jurisdiction. It also applies where the Testator does not appoint executors in his Will or where the Executors appointed predecease the Testator.

Other special categories of grant of Letters of Administration include:

  1. Grant Durante Dimentia: This is a grant made to another person where the person entitled suffers incapacity as a result of mental or physical infirmities.
  2. Grant durante minore actate: This is a temporary grant limited in time in order to manage the estate on behalf of a minor till he/she attains the legal age to manage his/her affairs.
  3. Grant ad litem: This is where the Court appoints a person to represent the unrepresented estate in litigation in order to continue proceedings in Court.
  4. Grant Pendente Lite: This is a grant whereby a personal representative is appointed to administer the estate of the deceased pending the determination of a suit over the estate.
  5. Grant pending the grant of Letters of Administration: Between the death of the deceased and the grant of Letters of Administration, the Chief Judge is statutorily empowered to administer the estate.
  6. Administration by an Attorney: A person entitled to grant of Letters of Administration can appoint an attorney to apply for grant of Letters of Administration on his behalf where such person resides outside Nigeria.
  7. Administration by the Administrator-General: The Administrator-General of the State will administer the estate in instances where: (a) the estate is unrepresented (b) the estate is exposed to the danger of misappropriation, waste or deterioration (c) the agents in charge of assets of a person not residing in Nigeria dies or a company not incorporated in Nigeria winds up without leaving a responsible person in charge of the assets (d) the testator appoints the Administrator-General as sole executor.

Procedure for obtaining Letters of Administration in Lagos State

Applications for Letters of Administration can be done either personally or through a Solicitor. Order 61 Rule 1 (2) of the Lagos State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019 provides that no grant of Administration with the Will annexed and without the Will annexed shall issue within fourteen (14) and twenty-one (21) days respectively of the death of the deceased. Lagos State has adopted an online process for easy facilitation of applications.

  1. The first step is to conduct a search on the Lagos State Judiciary’s website <https://lagosjudiciary.gov.ng/probatepub.html#probatesection> to determine if there has been a prior application for Letters of Administration with respect to the deceased’s estate.
  • Upon creation of the afore mentioned account, the Applicants or their Solicitor will complete a few questions and based on the information provided, the platform creates the documentation required in the acceptable format and generates the Forms for download. The Forms are:
  1. Application for Grant of Letters of Administration (without Will)
  2. Administration Bond (without Will)
  3. Declaration as to the next of kin
  4. Inventory
  5. Schedule of debts due by the deceased
  6. Particulars of properties left by the deceased
  7. Oath for Administration (without Will)
  • Pursuant to the completion of the questions in paragraph 3 above, the Applicant or their Solicitor will make payment of the applicable fees in order to be able to download the Forms stated in paragraph 3 above.
  • Upon payment of the applicable fees, the Applicants or their Solicitor will upload the Application for Letters of Administration, which must be in PDF format including other required documents as follows:
    • Application letter for the issuance of Forms stating the name, address, phone number and email address of each Administrator which will be addressed to the Lagos State Probate Registry in Ikeja or Lagos Judicial Divisions of the Lagos State High Court;
    • Photocopy of the means of identification of each Administrator – (Driver’s Licence, International Passport, National Identification Card or Permanent Voter’s Card);
    • Photocopy of the Death Certificate of the Deceased or an Affidavit of Loss of Death Certificate and Police Report;
    • A passport photograph of the deceased;
    • Two (2) passport photographs of each Administrator, please note that the passport photographs must be 2 by 2 inches in size, in jpeg or png format with a size of less than 200 kilobytes and a resolution of 72 pixels per inch.
    • Proof of payment for the Forms.
  • Consequent upon the upload of the documents above, the Applicants or their Solicitor are required to download the generated Forms, complete same and submit to the Probate Registry, along with the proof of payment for the application.
  • Upon submission of the Forms, obtain the Bank Certificate from the Probate Registry and apply to the Bank(s) and company(ies) where the deceased had Bank accounts and shares, have the Bank Certificate stamped at the Bank(s) and/or company(ies) and submit the stamped Bank Certificate for assessment at the Probate Registry.
  • Upon assessment by the Valuation unit of the Probate Registry, the Applicant pays the required estate duty of 10% (ten percent) of the value of the Estate.
  • The Applicants are then required to attend an interview at the Probate Registry for verification of the information supplied in the application.
  • After the interview, the Probate Registry will make a newspaper publication calling for objections to the application for Letters of Administration within twenty-one (21) days of the publication. The publication is also posted on the online portal.
  • Where there is no objection to the application within the specified period, the Letters of Administration is issued by the Probate Registrar within one (1) month.


It is important to state that the above procedure is only applicable to cases where there is no dispute between the beneficiaries of the deceased with respect to the persons entitled to the Letters of Administration over the estate. In the event the parties are in dispute with respect to the persons entitled to the Letters of Administration, the parties would resort to a probate action before the Court to determine who are entitled to same.   

It is pertinent that persons, who are desirous of obtaining Letters of Administration, seek assistance from Legal Practitioners to ensure a hitch free application. Although the innovation of the electronic application for Letters of Administration in Lagos State is commendable, it is still a work in progress, as applicants are required to conclude the process manually at the Probate Registry. This tends to hamper the speed of the process as delays might be occasioned as a result of such manual process.

In spite of the above, it is recommended that other States that are yet to set up online platforms for the application process take a cue from Lagos State which has to a large extent, simplified the procedure for obtaining Letters of Administration.

[1]This is done through the Probate Registry of the High Court of Lagos State. The High Court is usually delineated into divisions based on subject area. The relevant High Court in this instance is the Family and Probate division.

[2] Chapter A3, Law of Lagos State 2015