Understanding the Law
May 22, 2009
Citation proceedings

Your father died some time ago, but your stepmother refuses to probate the will or to apply for letters of administration so that you can receive your inheritance. All is not lost. If he left a will, you will know what your entitlements are when you examine the will. Your stepmother cannot take away your inheritance but she may try to delay the process. The law is on your side as she could be compelled to probate the will.{{more}}

If your father did not leave a will, his widow would have to apply to the Court for letters of administration as she is at the top of the priority list. You would recall the priority list given some time ago. However, you must make sure that he owns property and his name is given in the title deed. In applying for letters of administration, his widow must make an oath as required by law as to his marital status at the time of death and the children he fathered. Your name has to be mentioned in the oath and she would be required to file your birth certificate with the other documents to show that you are indeed a child of the testator. If she fails to include your name she could be challenged on this.

You can make a search at the Registry to find out whether probate or administration as the case may be was done. If it has not been done six months after the death of your father, you should contact his widow and give her a gentle reminder. If she refuses then you would have to cite her to perform her duties.

What is a citation?

A citation is an instrument which is issued from and under the seal of the Registrar in response to an application by a party. It contains the reason and the interest of the party who applied for it. It requires the person cited to enter an appearance and to take the steps as requested by the party.

In non contentious probate matters the citation might require the person named to accept or refuse a grant; to take probate or to propound testamentary papers.

Citation to accept or refuse a grant

As described above where a person has the prior right to apply for a grant but refuses to do so, he or she could be cited to perform his or her duty. On failing to do so the person who asks the court for the citation (the citor) may ask that a grant be issued to him or her.

Where there is an executor of a will that person can renounce his rights to act in that position by making the necessary application. If he or she does not appear to the citation his or her rights would cease without any further step. We would look at further citation proceedings next week.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]