By BABAJIDE KOMOLAFE
The process of accessing the shares of a deceased relative is a marathon. It can take years. Why is so?
Most people are ignorant of the process. Even some stockbrokers are not fully acquainted with the process. Another challenge is the competence of the lawyer engaged for the process? The extended family culture also contributes to the problem, and finally is the legendary bureaucracy of the courts.
Since the first and probably the greatest hurdle is obtaining a Letter of Administration, it is critical that you fully understand the process of obtaining this letter.
To obtain a Letter of Administration from any High Court in the country, a beneficiary will proceed to the court with the death certificate of the deceased.
Next, a form for Letter of Administration will be given to the beneficiary to be filled. The beneficiary is then required to place an advertorial in any national newspaper to declare that the deceased is actually dead. An interval of 21 working days will be observed to see if anybody will come forward to counter the advertorial. If nobody comes forward to counter the advertorial, the beneficiary will then proceed to the court with the newspaper bearing the advertorial.
Then, the beneficiary will pay the lawyer an amount equal to 10 per cent of the value of the Estate of the deceased, which is the standard charge for getting a Letter of Administration in any High Court in Nigeria.
However obtaining this letter in Nigeria is like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. This is reflected in the experience of somebody described in a Vanguard special report on the issue earlier this year.
““I have a sister who died on 11th November, 2008 and when I went to her bankers, to claim the N120,000 she had in her account as her next of kin, they told me to produce a letter of administration before I can have access to the money. I went to Lagos State Secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja to seek for the document and I was asked to pay N24,000 and I complied. I took the receipt to the High Court in Ikeja so as to obtain the letter of Administration.
“When I got to the court, a file was opened for me and they said I needed to see some officials to sign the document and they kept tossing me from one person to another, and sometimes they will inform me that the person to sign the document was not available. The court officials kept telling me to check back subsequently.
“The most terrible thing is that any person you meet, he or she will demand for money from you. This, I did for over seven months without success. So, I was eventually frustrated when at a time I was asked to produce four persons that are related to me as witnesses. So I left pursuing the case in July 2009 till date.”
But this stress can be avoided, and the challenges listed above can also be avoided. How?
The first thing to do to reclaim the shares or property of a deceased relative is to engage a lawyer. Yes this might add to the cost, but it would eliminated most of the stress and reduce the time involve. It is also advisable to contact a lawyer with whom you have some relationship, either a friend or member of your extended family. It is however important to be sure that the lawyer has experience in obtaining letter of administration.