JUDGMENT OF OMARI-SASU J.
Ref.: Administration of Estates Act, SS. 77 (1) and 79 (2)
This is a summary determination of who is entitled to grant of letters of administration to administer the estate of Dr. Gustav Koranteng-Addow (Decd.) pursuant to Order 2(14) of the Probate and Administration Rules, 1991 (L.I. 1515).
The applicant is a son of the deceased intestate and the caveator is a paternal brother of the deceased.
From the records of the court the applicant originally made an application with one Captain Joshua Michael Mireku Agyekum for joint letters of administration on 12 September 1988, but when the application was called on 11 October 1988 both applicants were absent and their counsel, Miss Naana Nketia, prayed for an adjournment. The application was thus adjourned to 17 October 1988. On this date the two applicants were again absent. Their counsel then prayed for the withdrawal of the application with liberty to come back and the application for withdrawal was granted.
Subsequently, the applicant came back but this time he came alone and prayed for the grant to him of letters of administration. His application was granted but before the letters of administration could be issued, the caveator, Mr. Augustus Sono Addow and Mr. Reynolds Simeon Mfodwo Koranteng, had made a different application for grant for them of letters of administration to administer the same estate. The caveator was subsequently warned to file an affidavit of interest after which the applicant was formally asked to move this court on notice for a grant of letters of administration, which application has been opposed by the caveator
Before determining who is entitled to a grant of letters of administration it is necessary to ascertain all those who have an interest in the estate of the deceased and whether the applicant is the sole surviving child of the deceased. The contention of the applicant is that the caveator is only a paternal brother of the deceased intestate and as the deceased was a citizen of Akropong-Akwapim, a matrilineal community, the caveator who is a citizen of Abetifi in Kwahu has no locus standi in the matter. Further, the applicant contends he is the sole surviving child of the deceased and that three other persons named by the caveator as (i) Mrs. Isabella Mintah; (ii) Susan Koranteng-Addow; and (iii) Nana Amma Ofosua Koranteng-Addow was not children of the deceased. The caveator on his part says after the funeral rites of the deceased had been performed the customary family of the deceased held a meeting at which he the caveator and one other were appointed customary successors and were empowered to apply for letters of administration. It is also the case of the caveator that the three women named herein are also surviving children of the deceased intestate.
The first question I must answer is, who from the surviving relations of the deceased intestate have an interest in the estate of the deceased? From the undisputed facts gleaned from the affidavits of the contestants the deceased was a widower survived by a child or children and his customary family. His mother was from Akropong-Akwapim but his father hailed from Abetifi in Kwahu. Sections 3-7 of the Intestate Succession Law, 1985 (P.N.D.C.L. 111) indicate the interests different relations of a deceased intestate have in the estate of a deceased and section 10(b) of the same enactment provides that:
“10. Where the rules of succession under customary law applicable to any portion of the estate provide that the family of the intestate shall be entitled to a share in the estate:—. . .
(b) in the case of an intestate who, being a member of two customary law communities belonged to two families for the purposes of succession, that family shall be the two families.”
For our purpose, it follows that the customary family of the deceased intestate means the combined families of the deceased from Akropong-Akwapim and Abetifi-Kwahu. It is interesting to note that these two families constituting the “customary family” of the deceased met and appointed both the caveator (from Abetifi) and Mr. Mfodwo Koranteng (from Akropong) to represent the customary family of
deceased in the application for letters of administration.
A close look at section 7 of P.N.D.C.L. 111 shows that the relations of the deceased who have an interest in his estate are the child or children and the customary family of the deceased. From the materials filed, I find as a fact that the caveator and Mr. Mfodwo Koranteng are members of the family of the deceased within the meaning of section 10(b) of P.N.D.C.L.111 and that they have the mandate and authority from the said family to apply for letters of administration, vide the affidavit of the head of family of the deceased, Odehye Awere Awuku sworn to and filed on 30 October 1989 and an extract from the joint meeting of the elders of the deceased’s family and the session of the Presbyterian Church, Akropong on 14 March 1988.
It should also be observed that section 5 of the Administration of Estates (Amendment) Law, 1985) (P.N.D.C.L. 113) which has amended section 79 (2) of the Administration of Estates Act., 1961 (Act 63) provides: “In granting administration the Court shall have regard to the right of all persons interested in the estate . . . (The emphasis is mine.) Section 77(1) of Act 63 provides, inter alia, that: “Probate or Administration shall not be granted to more than four persons in respect of the same property. And Order 2, r. 8(1) of L.I. 1515 states that the number of persons to whom a grant may be made shall not exceed four persons as specified in section 77(1) of the Administration of Estates Act, 1961 (Act 63)”. (The emphasis is mine.)
The lesson to be learned from the foregoing provisions is that the interest of all persons interested in an estate should be considered and in our case the interest of the children and customary family should be considered by this court in making the grant of letters of administration but the administrators should not be more than four persons.
The next and last question to be answered is, is the applicant the sole surviving child of the deceased intestate? Before the issue is resolved it is necessary to examine who a child is for purposes of enjoying the estate of a deceased. The word “child” is defined by section 18 of P.N.D.C.L.
111 which states:
“18 ...except where the context otherwise requires— ‘child’ includes a natural child, a person adopted under any enactment for the time being in force or under customary law relating to adoption and any person recognised by the person in question [the deceased] as his child or recognised by law to be the child of such person [the deceased].”
I have already observed that in our case whereas the applicant in his present application on notice is saying vehemently that he is the sole surviving child of the deceased, the caveator says there are three others, namely: (i) Mrs. Isabella Mintah—who provided the bereaved family with drinks and a coffin with which the deceased was buried; (ii) Susan Koranteng-Addow; and (iii) Nana Amma Ofosua Koranteng-Addow.
Strangely in their joint affidavit sworn to and filed on 22 September 1988 in support of a motion ex parte for grant of letters of administration to them the present applicant and one other Captain Joshua Michael Mireku Agyekum averred in paragraph (4) thereof as follows:
“(4) That the deceased died a widower and was survived by the following children:
(a) Mrs. Isabella Mintah—49 years (nee Isabella Ohenewa Bampoe) London.
(b) Godfried Darko Koranteng-Addow—44 years, Accra.”
It is true the applicant’s motion in which the above averment formed part was withdrawn but nowhere in his subsequent affidavits did the applicant aver that the above quoted averment was wrong or false. The above averment made by the applicant supports the one made by the caveator, the head of the deceased’s family and the Presbyterian Church, Akropong that the applicant is not the sole surviving child of the deceased and that the surviving children of the deceased include Mrs. Isabella Mintah and I therefore hold and find as a fact that the said Mrs. Isabella Mintah is also one of the surviving children of the deceased.
I would like to observe, further, that from the exhibits tendered, the obituary notice of the deceased published and publicly displayed on the Supreme Court notice board, Accra; at the residence of the deceased both in Accra and at Akropong; and the family residence of the deceased at Abetifi lists:
(i) Mrs. Isabella Mintah;
(ii) Godfried Darko Koranteng-Addow;
(iii) Susan Koranteng-Addow; and
(iv) Nana Amma Ofosua Koranteng-Addow
as the children of the deceased. Again the burial and thanksgiving programme published during the funeral of the deceased mentions the names of the said four children of the deceased. The tributes by the family, and the Judicial Service mentioned four children. Lastly, the extract from the joint meeting of the family and the Presbyterian Church,
Akropong on 14 March 1988 also states that the deceased was survived by these four children.
It is true that in her affidavit sworn to by Susan Koranteng-Addow on 4 March 1986 in suit No 379/85 entitled Adwoa Kwasaa v. Gustav Koranteng-Addow, unreported, Susan described the deceased in paragraph (2) thereof as stepfather. That averment was not commented upon by the trial judge. At any rate I prefer the view of the reputable elders named in the extract from the joint meeting by the deceased’s family and the Presbyterian Church, Akropong and also the views expressed in the documents I have referred to above to those of the applicant and that of Susan for the term “child” for our purpose is so broad that it includes any person recognised by the deceased as his child. In the nature of things it is the customary family of a deceased and those with whom he associated in his lifetime who can better testify to this.
Finally, Susan and Nana Amma Ofosua were using the surname “Koranteng-Addow” prior to the death of Dr. Gustav Koranteng-Addow and this fact suggests that they were recognised by the deceased as his children prior to his death. I accordingly hold and find as a fact that the deceased intestate was survived by the four children mentioned by the caveator.
I also order that from the affidavit evidence and other exhibits placed at my disposal, letters of administration should be jointly granted to the applicant, the caveator and to Mr. Reynolds Simeon Mfodwo Koranteng (the two customary successors) to administer the estate of the deceased jointly for and on behalf of those who are in law beneficially entitled to enjoy the estate of the deceased.
No order is made as to costs.