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Probate: Its legality and importance

Probate is the legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. It also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s will or the estate of a deceased person without a will. These are the general dictionary meanings of the word probate. These meanings are not different from what we have in the probate services business circle.

The meanings of probate in the interpretation sections of the various laws on administration of estate of deceased persons differ from the meanings presented above if interpreted strictly. For instance, Section 2 – interpretation – The Administration of Estate of Deceased Persons Law of Lagos State stated “probate” means the probate of a will’’. Likewise, Section 58 – Interpretation – Administration of Estate of Deceased Persons Act stated also ‘’probate’’ means the probate of a will’’.

However, as brisk as the meanings in the Law and the Act are, the Law and the Act are for the Administration of the Estates of Deceased Persons. The process of administering the estate of the deceased persons enunciated in the Law and the Act is also in tandem with the above general dictionary meanings of probate. The word probate, and the phrase administration of estate of deceased persons are used interchangeably by professionals and experts in the probate and administration of estate business. Probate is the administration of estate of deceased persons. Administration of estate of deceased persons is probate.

This clarification puts to rest doubts on the meaning of probate. However, many people do not know or understand the meaning of the word. Also, the word does not give a quick reflection of itself without someone making a recourse to a dictionary. Unlike some words that are notorious for their usage. Most people can easily relate to those words too. For instance, ‘‘financial services’’. What comes to mind is monies, loans, savings, and banks.

Some words obtained their notorious status through usages, and relevance in the public domain. Some are well known through deliberate campaigns by the professionals, and businesses. Some of such words are pensions, deed of assignment, and clubs etc. While, some professionals, and businesses have become synonymous with such words too.

For instance, Greenwich Registrars and Data Solutions Limited is one of the topmost and well recognized probate services company in Nigeria. The company is synonymous to giving quality, timely, and affordable probate services. It has very competent probate team with required education, training, and track records. The team also has a mix of legal professionals with requisite legal training, and experience to give sound legal advice on estate administration to client during the probate services process.

The company has identified the gaps in understanding what probate is. Hence, this article is to educate the general public of what probate is about. Particularly, noting that probate services would always be needed by everyone as long as we all live, acquire properties, die, and leave behind loved ones who are expected to enjoy, use, and administer the assets.

This article is one of the several articles by Greenwich Registrars and Data Solutions Limited for public enlightenment on probate. Particularly, those alive who have deceased relatives, families and friends, who left behind landed properties, monies in bank, pension, and royalties etc. This would reduce wastage of assets and estates of deceased persons. While the right people would also be able to use and enjoy these assets without interference from anyone.

When do you need probate?

Probate is simply the entire process of organizing a dead person’s estate; money, landed properties, pension, and other possessions, and distributing them as inheritance after paying taxes and debts. This process starts only upon, and after the death of the owner of the assets, not before.

For instance, let’s take a certain Mr. Adekunle who died in 2016, left behind landed properties in several states across Nigeria. He bought shares in some companies with several unclaimed dividends. While he has monies in banks and pensions from his former employer. He also wrote several books, subscribed to some social clubs, and corporative societies that he makes contributions with records of his contributions, and expected returns. There are persons, and small businesses he extended credits to in goods, and cash who are yet to pay back, with documents to back them up.

Mr. Adekunle has an aged mother, two children, and 3 siblings. The wife and children, have made frantic efforts to collect rents from some of the tenants in some of his properties. Some of them paid to the wife and children in cash because they know them to be related to the deceased, and deemed them to have the rights and authorities to collect the rent. Some of the tenants refused, because they claimed they don’t know them. They demanded for an authorization from the wife and the children. The siblings, believed, they are the rightful persons to take charge of all the assets of their brother. They can share with the mother, wife and children as they like.

We all can relate with this scenario above. Probate is simply, how Mr. Adekunle, and any other dead person’s landed properties, monies, pensions and other can be taken over by the living relatives legally.

Is probate recognized by law or it was just made up by some professionals.

Probate is legal. Legally, it is also referred to as the administration of estate of deceased persons. There are laws regulating the administration of estate of deceased persons in Nigeria. Most states in Nigeria, have laws enacted in respect of this. There are also established processes, place, and persons in charge of probate.

The processes are written in the form of court rules, stipulating requirements, scope and others for the probate process in the court registry, probate registry or just registry of the court by officials of the court referred to as probate officers, registrars, managers etc.

Although, some of the laws, and processes may be similar across the states in Nigeria. The differences are not significant.

Section 1 of the Administration of Estate of Deceased Persons Law of Lagos State, clearly, recognized the legality of probate and administration of estate of deceased persons.

‘’This Law may be cited as the Administration of Estates of Deceased Persons Law’’ While its preamble reads, ‘’A Law relating to the Administration of the Estates of Deceased Persons’’.

Section 2 of the Law also pronounced the extend and ambits of operations of Law thus,

‘’Save as otherwise expressly provided this Law does not apply in any case where the death occurred before the commencement of this Law’’

This law in question has been in existence since April 1959 and has gone through several refined improvements to accommodate subsequent realities in administration of estate of deceased persons.

The law also defined administration which copiously appears or is the operative word in the definition of probate and expression of the administration of estate of a deceased persons to mean, ‘‘with reference to the real and personal estate of a deceased person, letters of administration, whether general or limited, or with the will annexed or otherwise’’ in section section 2 of the Law.

So, probate is the administration of estate of deceased persons by law. It is very legal. Whether probate or administration of estate of deceased persons, we are referring to the same subject matter. It is not a formulated procedure for administration of estate of deceased persons by some professionals. It is a concerted effort of legal process passed into law. Probate is the administration of the estate of deceased persons. Administration of the estate of a deceased persons is probate.

Adebayo Adekola is a Legal Practitioner and Head, Probate Services, Greenwich Registrars and Data Solutions Limited. You can reach him on 08165299774 and 08150373535.

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