The Office of Administrator-General and Public Trustee (AG&PT), Lagos State, has sensitised stakeholders on its activities, functions, modus operandi and challenges, among others, through a webinar jointly organised by the Office and the Association of Succession, Trusts and Estate Planning Practitioners (ASTEP).
Delivering her paper on the topic: “The Role of the Administrator-General and Public Trustee in Solving Probate Matters”, the AG&PT, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, harped on the need for stakeholders in the estate planning and succession trusts sector to come up with strategies to expedite the process of ensuring swift and easy access to deceased estates by beneficiaries.
Highlighting some functions of the Office, she said the agency, which is the oldest in any Ministry of Justice or Justice Department all over the world, is duty-bound to represent and defend estates in court; administer and equitably share or partition the assets of person(s) who died (with or without leaving a Will) amongst qualified beneficiaries.
She outlined other functions such as, obtaining Letters of Administration (LA) in respect of estate under its management; acting as receiver or Administrator during pending court cases so as to preserve the estate from going to waste or getting into the hands of wrong persons, as well as verifying and disbursing, in appropriate cases, death benefits to Next of Kin of Civil Servants, who died in active service, among others.
Mrs. Rotimi stated that clients of the Office must apply to the law court for a Letter of Administration, either through the beneficiaries of the deceased, family members, Next of kin or any other person that fits the category, including AG&PT.
Her words: “The Law states that the Administrator-General may present a petition to the court for grant of Letter of Administration in respect of an estate or asset within the State, which he considered unrepresented. The court, upon being satisfied that such estate is unrepresented, will make such an order and the Administrator-General is then to cause inventory to be made of the estate.”
While noting that the Office encounters challenges such as long delay at the probate registry in assigning petition and granting the order; non-implementation of the Administration of Estates (Small Estate Payments Exemption) Law 2005; and willful attempts to conceal certain information by either party in a petition, the AG&PT recommended mediation as a veritable tool for quick and amicable resolution of disputes emanating from an inheritance, where such disagreements are not contentious and parties are in agreement, to settle without resulting to litigation.
Responding on behalf of the stakeholders, Mr. Marx Ikongbeh, a representative of the Association of Succession, Trusts and Estate Planning Practitioners (ASTEP), expressed appreciation to the AG&PT for the educative and enlightening session, giving assurance of a continued synergy to better sensitise citizens and residents of the State on the importance of writing a Will, steps to accessing and getting a Letter of Administration (LA), Death Certificate and other such documents.