It has happened to many people where their relatives die leaving fat sum of money in their bank accounts without their children having access to that money. To access the bank account of a deceased family member, friend, and benefactor in the event of his or her death is a very important subject worth discussing.
This is a step-by-step guide on how to access bank account of deceased person in Nigeria even if you are the next of kin or not. This guide will help you if you pay certain attention to every step of the process.
Ordinarily, when someone dies, they normally leave wills behind with executors who will carry out the wishes of the deceased person. An issue arises when someone who is very rich dies intestate (without leaving behind a valid will).
But all banks make provisions for account holders to clearly state who their next of kin is so as to reduce the avoidable litigation processes involved in accessing the bank account of a deceased person.
To access bank account of a deceased person in Nigeria by others is difficult if the next of kin is late or an infant.
If the next of kin is dead, many family members of the deceased person can lay claims on the account especially if the wife of the deceased person is also late (maybe they were involved in a car crash simultaneously), but the bank in its authority guided by their policy and state law of Administration of Estates (court judgment) and these determine who the beneficiary becomes. Before a next of kin or indeed anyone else can access bank account of a deceased person in Nigeria, there are certain conditions and requirements expected of this person.
Get a probate letter. A probate is an order given by the judge or magistrate appointing a person as executor (a person who is not a lawyer appointed to carry out the wishes of the will) of an estate (money and property owned by a dead person) when a competent probate court has certified that the will is authentic.
This letter must be tendered to a bank before anyone can access bank account of a deceased person in Nigeria. The court process involved in ensuring that the will is real is called proving the will. Getting this letter involves some processes in Nigeria.
The Nigerian law which guides the estates of deceased persons is the Administration of Estates of laws of the federating states in Nigeria (it varies from state to state in Nigeria but they basically have the same foundation).
This law was made to ensure that the wishes of the deceased person are obeyed and to ensure that unscrupulous elements do not hijack the estates of the deceased person.
This is also referred to Grant of Authority. Grant of Authority comes in 3 forms:
» Grant of letter of administration without will. This applies where the person dies intestate (dies without a will) and couldn’t appoint executors. This is more difficult to deal with. The administrator takes the position of an executor here.
» Grant of letter of administration with will. This applies where the testor (deceased person) leaves a will without executors on hand or the appointed executors are late too or the executors are not up to 18 years or the executor has denounced the will.
» Grant of probate. This is where the deceased dies leaving a valid will behind as well as executors mentioned or appointed in the will to carry out the wishes of the will.
In the case of grant of letter of administration without will, what usually happens in this situation is for the contestants of his account to write to the management of the bank (sometimes through their lawyer) that the account holder died intestate so that the bank can give them the next of kin the deceased person used while opening the account.
The next of kin will then proceed further to get a probate letter from court so as to be able to access the bank account of the deceased person.
This often leads to other members of the family challenging the next of kin in court especially if they feel the next of kin doesn’t deserve it or there is some level of distrust of an account officer (especially if the deceased person was rich).
On the other hand, if a deceased person leaves a will, it is easier to handle but problems arise when the family of the deceased person objects the will.
In a situation where a valid will exists, it often takes about a month after the death of the deceased person before such authority can be given to the executor.
An executor must ensure the deceased is buried before applying for probate letter. To access bank account of a deceased person in Nigeria is difficult if the deceased dies without a will.
Grant of letter of administration without through solemn forms is applied when the will is being challenged by other family members.
It will go through a court process before the executors in the will can be given the authority to carry out the wishes of the deceased person.
The party contesting the validity or otherwise authenticity will appear in court as defendant. Note that the court reserves the power to grant a temporary administration pendente lite (pending the litigation) to preserve the estate.
After the litigation is over and the case is won, the following documents are required before a Grant of letter of administration is issued:
- An application letter to the Probate Register requesting for Grant of letter of administration and the letter will contain identity of the deceased stating his names, marital status, address, profession and spouses and children (if any)
- The date and place of death of the deceased
- A death certificate of the deceased person issued by National Population Commission
- The deceased was resident within the jurisdiction of the court in question before she/he died
- Name of the administrators. The administrators are appointed by the court after litigation
- Passport photographs of the applicant
A copy of the deceased will
The bank will expect you to produce a copy of the will where a deceased person mentioned your name as a beneficiary of the estate (account).
All wills have wishes of a deceased person clearly started on them, and the bank attorneys will have to investigate to ensure the will you have submitted is genuine, and this of course takes some time.
The deceased person’s copy of the will is one of the requirements needed to access account of the deceased person in Nigeria. In the absence of a valid will, the litigation described above will ensue.
All account details
This is also required before any claims on account can be honoured by the bank.
In an event where the account details are not stated in the will (which is rare), the beneficiary is expected to produce the details of the account.
These details include the account name, account number, nature of account (current, savings, fixed deposit, etc), Bank Verification Number (where necessary) and others. Without bank details banks won’t know the account in question so the request won’t be honoured.
An application letter with passport photograph attached
Your application letter alongside 2 passport photographs will inform the bank that the man in question is dead and as a result, you wish to empty and close his account or start operating the account.
If your choice is the latter, Diamond Bank PLC for example expects you to pick up a change of name form and change the account name so as to reflect your name and not that of the deceased person you start operating it.
Remember this happens after all the documents you brought have been confirmed and the entire process concluded.
The application form MUST come with all the documents and information listed above before the bank honours such requests. So, all banks demand that you write a formal letter to them in a bid to access bank account of a deceased person in Nigeria.
When these requirements are met, you will be asked to go home and will be alerted when all investigations are concluded by the bank.
Yes, banks have to investigate to ensure that all information and documents provided are genuine. It will be the responsibility of bank lawyers to verify that the will and grant of letter of administration are genuine, while those in operations section in the bank will handle the rest.
To complete the entire process can take months or even years (when the deceased dies intestate) and may even be elongated if the case is still in court or lawyers go on strike (as this is not uncommon to Nigeria’s states judicial systems).
Remember, a court will not issue you a letter of probate if the matter is being contested in court. So, all outstanding issues concerning the account must be resolved before the bank processes your application.
To access bank account of a deceased person in Nigeria is easy when it is clearly stated who the next of kin of the deceased is (which is always the case), but banks will not easily grant this request when they get injunctions from courts barring them from doing so – this is always the case if the matter of who acquires the deceased person’s account is being debated in court and banks will proceed with processing the application of next of kin when the matter is resolved.
If you are extremely ignorant about these processes, I will advise that you appoint a family lawyer to take on this assignment. If you have any question, put it in the comments section below.
If you need a lawyer to take you on this, kindly contact us. Share this guide as usual and let us know your questions and comments. Use the comments section below.
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