Determination on Entitlement To Grant Following Application By Several Surviving ‘Spouses’ – Kelly-Lambo V Lambo [2022] EWHC 2672

After a death intestate, a Grant of Letters of Administration must be applied for. But who applies for the Grant, and what happens when there are conflicting claims?

In this case, the court was faced with an application for a Grant of Letters of Administration alongside the rectification of the Death Certificate of the late Mr James Olayiwola Akanbi Lambo. The claimant, Mrs Patricia Lambo applied on the basis that she was his surviving spouse. However, the defendant, Mrs Esther Olufunmilayo Lambo, also claimed to be Mr Lambo’s surviving spouse.

The Defendant married Mr Lambo in 1962 in Nigeria, whereas the Claimant had married him in 1993 also in Nigeria. Throughout the proceedings it became clear that Mr Lambo had been involved with numerous women, certain of which he also married. The Defendant’s daughter gave evidence of her knowledge that Mr Lambo was effectively running two households at the time of his death.

The marriage of Mr Lambo to the Claimant was not questioned, however a Decree Absolute of their alleged divorce was produced with doubted authenticity. It was the question of whether this divorce occurred which would determine whether the Claimant was entitled to a Grant of Probate. Conversely, the evidence of the Defendant’s initial marriage to Mr Lambo was inconclusive and open to doubt, and thus could not establish her firmly as a surviving spouse.

As a result, the Judge relied on the presumption of marriage between the Claimant and Mr Lambo on the overwhelming evidence that Mr Lambo and the Claimant had been living together as husband and wife up to his death. No such presumption could be made in favour of the Defendant. He therefore declared that only the Claimant would be entitled to the Grant of Representation.