What happens if no will was made before passing away? - Justice Centres Uganda
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What happens if no will was made before passing away?


When a person dies, they either die testate or intestate. A person dies testate when he or she wrote and left a valid will concerning the distribution of his or her property upon their death. A person dies intestate when they pass away without leaving a valid will.

1. Upon death of a person, a post-mortem report, death certificate, and/ or an LC letter confirming the death of such person should be obtained as proof of death. NIRA is mandated to issue out death certificates.

In cases where a person has issues accessing a death certificate, JCU can write to NIRA requesting for their support to help the client access a death certificate.

2. A family meeting should be held to select a person(s) who will apply for a certificate of No Objection at the office of the Administrator General to administer the estate of the deceased person. The Administrator General’s office is mandated to support and supervise the distribution of property where there is no valid will.

JCU does help in mediating families of the deceased where for instance one approaches JCU claiming that a family member is intermeddling with the property of the deceased. During the mediation, parties can voluntarily consent and agree to who among them they wish to apply for Letters of Administration. After a successful mediation, the parties sign an MOU that details among others, who they have agreed will apply for Letters of Administration. The parties can then proceed to the Administrator General’s office with a copy of the MOU, so that they can be issued with a certificate of no objection.

3. A meeting at the Administrator General’s Office must be held:

4.  A petition to court to apply for grant of Letters of administration must be made and should include the following:

  • The petition must be in English language (containing the place and date of death of the deceased) describing that the person(s) applying for the Letters of Administration is/ are best placed to administer the estate;
  • A list of all properties left by the deceased and their value;
  • A list of the dependent relatives who survived the deceased;
  • A postmortem report, death certificate or LC letter confirming the death of the deceased;
  • For applications at Magistrates Court, an affirmation that at the time of his/her death the deceased had a permanent home or owned property within the area of operation.
  • An identification form signed by the LC chairperson stating the pertinent details of the applicant including a passport photo.
  • A recommendation from the LC that the person applying is a fit and proper person to make the application.
  • A certificate of ‘No Objection’ obtained from the Administrator General.
  • A copy of the will in case the deceased made a will but didn’t name an executor/executrix.
  • A declaration of compliance that requirements of the law and payment of estate duty have or will be complied with.

Note: If the will was written in another language you need to hand in an English translation of it! In such instances, a certificate of translation should be attached. If a will is in a local language, JCU provides free translation services.

Any of the following can apply to court to be granted Letters of Administration, in the following order of priority:

  1. Widow/ Widower of the deceased,
  2. Children of the deceased, especially the customary heir,
  3. Any other person considered rightful according to the family.
  4. A creditor of the deceased.

JCU does provide legal support to clients in court by drafting the petitions for letters of administration (including all necessary documentation) and representing them in court.

5. The application for Letters of Administration is advertised to the public in a local newspaper for a minimum of 14 days or in the gazette.

Objections: A person who has a reason as to why the petitioner should not be granted the Letters of Administration (an objection) may lodge a Caveat in court within 14 days from the time the application is made. If no caveat is lodged, then the petitioner will be granted Letters of Administration by court. Upon receiving the objection, the court shall not grant letters of Administration until it has heard the person objecting and determined whether or not they have good cause for the objection but if there is no reasonable ground, the court will go ahead and grant the letters of administration to the petitioner.

If JCU is representing a client who has an objection, JCU will help the client by filing an affidavit in support of the caveat in court requesting that a caveat be lodged.

If JCU is representing a client who is applying for grant of Letters of Administration and someone lodges a caveat, JCU will represent the client by applying to court (filing a complaint) asking that the caveat be removed stating reasons why. Representation can go on up to the logical conclusion of the matter in court.

6. The petition for Letters of Administration must be be filed:

The petition should be filed in the court with jurisdiction where the property of the deceased is located:

Magistrate Grade 1 Court Estate value under 20 million UGX
Chief Magistrate Court Estate value under 50 million UGX
High Court* Estate value over 50 million UGX

JCU files such petitions for respective clients in court and represent them fully.

*When the petition is filed at the High Court of Kampala (Family Division), JCU also pays for the photo of the deceased to run together with the advert in the newspaper. This is a special requirement by that court. The extra cost of UGX 35.000 is fully covered by JCU for its clients.


  • Where a last will was made but without naming the executor the family members must elect a representative to distribute the deceased’s property according to the will. When applying for Letters of Administration, such a will should be attached as one of the documents.
  • Upon being granted Letters of Administration, the administrator now holds the property in trust for the beneficiaries and must distribute the property as per the law within 12 months. The beneficiaries are: widow(s)/widower, customary heir, children of the deceased and dependent. Where an administrator mismanages the estate of the deceased, commits fraud or fails to account, a beneficiary can report such matters to JCU.

    JCU intervenes by inviting parties to a mediation. If the mediation fails/ gets frustrated, then JCU can proceed to court to represent the beneficiaries. One of the requests to court can be to remove the administrator and appoint another one.


  • A list of all assets of the deceased must be provided to court six months after the grant of Letters of Administration.
  • A list of all assets and how they have been distributed must be provided to the court within one year after receiving the authority.

JCU files these lists on behalf of the petitioner.

  • Even after grant of Letters of Administration has been made, JCU follows up with the Administrator to ensure that the estate is fully accessed and released. For example, JCU might support the administrator who is trying to access penison money of the deceased from NSSF or access money on the deceased’s bank account or Mobile Money account.

Download the template of a will (computer version)

Download the template of a will (for hand writing)

For more information and support contact JCU on our toll-free lines!

Read more:

How to make a will and why

What happens after my parent/legal guardian has died and he/she made a will?

Legal Sources – Succession Law:

The law applicable to succession in Uganda is: