To access the bank account of a deceased family member, friend, and benefactor, below is a step-by-step guide if you are the next of kin or not.
Ordinarily, when someone dies, they normally leave wills behind with executors who will carry out the wishes of the deceased.
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 can lay claims on the account especially if the wife of the deceased is also late (maybe they were involved in a car crash simultaneously), but the bank in its authority is 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 are obeyed and to ensure that unscrupulous elements do not hijack the estates of the deceased.
This is also referred to Grant of Authority. Grant of Authority comes in three 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 whom 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.
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).