The administration of estate is a legal procedure where the assets of a deceased person is managed and distributed.
The administration of an estate of a deceased will depend on whether they died testate or intestate.
When people die, they either leave a Will detailing how they want their assets to be distributed, or they don’t.
For lawyers involved in estate administration, the process requires meticulous planning and execution.
Only lawyers with the requisite knowledge should handle these cases. One of the cases lawyers shouldn’t accept are those they don’t have the expertise in.
The Process of Administration of Estate.
The process of administration of estate starts immediately after the death of a person and ends after the properties have been accounted for and distributed, and liabilities settled.
Going from start to finish in estate administration involves several processes and procedures.
Intestate Administration of Estate.
Where a deceased person died intestate, the lawyer’s duty in the process of administration of the deceased estate starts with obtaining a letter of authority to act on behalf of the relatives.
Armed with a letter of authority, the lawyer will start the process of obtaining the letter of administration.
Obtaining the Letter of Administration.
For many beneficiaries of a deceased estate, obtaining letters of administration can be challenging.
To make the process easier for them, many engage legal practitioners for advice and assistance.
In Nigeria, the lawyer will usually take the following steps:
- File a formal application with prescribed documents.
- Publication in some national dailies of your client’s intention to obtain a letter of administration in respect of the deceased estate.
- Payment of administration of estate fees, charges, and other administration fees.
- Following up and collecting the letter of administration when it is finally signed.
A lot of times the process of obtaining a letter of administration does not go as smoothly as represented above.
Sometimes after an application for the grant of letter of administration and the publication in a national daily, an objection is raised.
Once there is an objection, it is the responsibility of the lawyer to get the objection out of the way.
In doing this, the lawyer can file a warning letter to the objector to withdraw the objection, or proceed to court to have the objection removed.
Testate Administration of Estate.
When a deceased dies testate, the first duty is for the lawyer to help the relatives locate the will and have the contents read in court.
After reading the Will, the lawyer will help the relatives to go through the process of proving the said Will and obtaining probate.
The following are some of the duties of lawyers in helping their clients in the estate administration of a deceased who died testate.
Identifying a Deceased Person’s Assets.
One of the first and most important duties of an executor or administrator of an estate is to find and take possession of the deceased assets.
Finding the assets of a testator is easy when they are all included in a Will. But sometimes a testator fails to capture all his assets in the Will and finding it is a lot work.
Paying the Estate Administration Fees.
The administration of estate involves the payment of various expenses and costs in respect of a deceased estate.
The expenses include court fees, lawyer’s fees, executor’s commission and other estate maintenance fees.
If people owe the deceased person, the executor and personal representatives must identify, demand and recover same. It may require going to court for such recovery.
Sometimes a deceased may be indebted to creditors. The lawyer must help the executors to identify and notify the creditors of the demise of the deceased.
One recommended way of notifying creditors is to take out an advert in a newspaper to come forth and make their claims known.
In the payment of debts, the Administration of Estate laws provide the order of priority for such payments.
Usually the funeral, testamentary, and administration expenses are given priority over other debts.
Probate is a judicial process of validating and authenticating the last Will of a deceased person.
The procedure involves the transferring of the assets of a deceased person to the right beneficiaries.
The process can be cumbersome in some jurisdictions and that’s why people engage the services of lawyers.
Determining the Value of the Assets.
Part of the administration of an estate involves the determination of the value of the deceased assets.
The purpose of valuing the assets of the deceased is that a certain percentage of the value of the estate must be paid to the state.
Tax services are those performed in connection with any taxes due on death or during the administration of an estate.
The demise of a person does not extinguish his liabilities to individuals, corporate bodies, and to the state.
The state will determine the liability of the estate in taxes which will be settled from the funds gotten from the estate.
Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries.
After probate is finally granted, the executor(s) will distribute the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries of the Will.
Accounting to Beneficiaries.
Part of the duties of an executor is to carry the beneficiaries of a Will along by accounting for all financial transaction received or expended during the process.
The services involved in the administration of estate can be diverse, complex, and varied.
Miscellaneous services include all other services not directly under the jurisdiction of the probate division of the court.
Lawyers may find themselves involved in non-probate activities like burial and investment plans.
Resting my Case.
The administration of an estate of a deceased person requires careful preparation and planning.
Any legal and financial mistake can put the whole process into jeopardy and incur penalties for the estate.
Lawyers have a duty to carefully guide their clients from the beginning to end of the administration of estate process.
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