Oct 28, 2022 | In Blog

Recognition of Foreign Wills in Ghana

It is often said that “the world has become a global village”. Thus, people are moving to countries other than theirs for education, employment, migration among others while still keeping ties with their home countries. Considering this, people are obtaining property and amassing wealth in countries other than their home countries. What this article seeks to do is to explain the recognition of foreign wills in Ghana.

The Wills Act treats wills which complies with the laws of the country in which it was made as properly executed and therefore valid and capable of being recognised in Ghana. Such wills are treated in the same manner as a will made in Ghana and can therefore be admitted to probate by the Ghanaian Courts or otherwise used as the basis for the devolution of the property in accordance with the terms of the will.[1]

Under the Courts Act and the High Court Civil Procedure Rules (C.I. 47), the courts in Ghana have jurisdiction to hear applications for the granting of probate with respect to the estate of a deceased person and to hear causes or matters in relation to the succession to the property of that deceased person. It is important to note that the assets in Ghana confers jurisdiction on the courts to grant probate irrespective of the domicile of the deceased. Therefore, even if the Foreign Will has not been admitted to probate from the country of origin, once the will was made in accordance with the laws of the country in which it was made, and some of the properties of the deceased person are located in Ghana, then the Ghanaian courts can grant probate in relation to the will to allow the executors deal with the properties located in Ghana.

Under the Administration of Estate Act, where a Foreign Will made in a Commonwealth Country, such as England or Nigeria has been proved in the country of origin and the executors under the Foreign Will have been granted probate, the probate can be presented to the Ghanaian Courts and be sealed with the seal of the Ghanaian court[2]. After the sealing of the probate, the probate becomes effective in Ghana and is treated as if it was granted by the Ghanaian court. This will allow the executors of the will, who have been granted probate, to deal with the properties located in Ghana which the testator had provided for in the will. This position of the law also applies to letters of administration.

In Gordon v. Essien, the court held that the act of sealing in Ghana allows the use of the letters of administration granted outside Ghana (in this case in Nigeria) to be used in administering the Ghanaian component of the deceased’s estate without the administrator going through the process of obtaining a fresh grant of letters of administration in Ghana.

Before sealing a probate as stated above, the courts in Ghana must be satisfied that probate duty has been paid in respect of that part of the estate that is liable to probate duty in Ghana.

It is important to note that the courts in Ghana may not recognise a Foreign Will in respect of properties in Ghana if:

a. that will has been revoked by another will;

b. a caveat has been raised in respect of the will in the foreign jurisdiction; and

c. the validity of the will is in contention.

[1] Section 15 of the Wills Act

[2] Section 84 Administration of Estates Act

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