The Comprehensive Guide to Probate and Letters of Administration in Singapore

The Comprehensive Guide to Probate and Letters of Administration in Singapore

Introduction

If your loved ones have passed away with property in their name (cash, monies in bank accounts, real estate, shares, CPF monies, etc.), their property has to be dealt with in accordance with the law. This property is collectively known as the Deceased’s estate.

All of us are concerned, and sometimes even anxious in respect of one issue – that the right amounts or value out of the Deceased’s estate must reach the right people or beneficiaries. Sometimes, we are also concerned that the debts, funeral expenses and other obligations of our loved ones are settled out of his or her estate.

This is where the laws of probate and letters of administration help you to ensure that your loved ones estate is dealt with in a fair manner.

Whether your loved one left a will behind or not, it is only after the Court has issued a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration that you can start administering the Estate and making your loved one’s wishes (pertaining to administration and the distribution of his or her estate) come true.

This article seeks to discuss some pertinent issues and guide you through the process of applying for and obtaining a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration, as the case may be. We shall cover the following:

SUB-TOPICS
If Your Loved One Left a Will – Grant of Probate
If Your Loved One Did Not Leave a Will – Grant of Letters of Administration
If Your Loved One Did Not Leave a Will – Priority
If Your Loved One Did Not Leave a Will – Who Gets How Much?
The First 2 Things To Do
Important Considerations Before Filing an Application for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration
Step-By-Step Guide to Applying for and Obtaining a Grant of Probate
Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for and Obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration

If Your Loved One Left a Will – Grant of Probate

If your loved one made a Will, he or she would have specified exactly which person or family member is appointed as executors and trustees to administer the estate according to your loved one’s wishes. The appointed executor and trustee (who has been given the right to deal with the whole estate) has to make an application for a Grant of Probate before administering the Estate.

If Your Loved One Did Not Leave a Will – Grant of Letters of Administration

If your loved one did not make a Will, the Court would have to appoint an administrator or administrators. The court-appointed administrator will normally be the spouse or a beneficiary. For non-Muslims, a beneficiary is usually a next-of-kin who inherits a share of the estate according to the rules of distribution under the Intestate Succession Act of Singapore (Cap. 146). For Muslims, a beneficiary is usually a next-of-kin who inherits a share of the estate under Muslim (or Syariah) law. The beneficiary who is desirous of administering the Estate has to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration from the Court before doing anything else.

If Your Loved One Did Not Leave a Will – Priority

The Intestate Succession Act (Cap.146) governs non-Muslim estates where the deceased did not leave behind a will.

The laws of intestate succession deem that certain classes of beneficiaries have a prior right to apply for letters of administration. These prioritised beneficiaries may renounce their right to letters of administration and instead allow other beneficiaries to apply for a grant.

Beneficiaries with lower priority who wish to be appointed as administrators may make an application for Letters of Administration:

  • either jointly with the persons with prior right; or
  • after obtaining the renunciation of the persons with prior right.

If Your Loved One Did Not Leave a Will – Who Gets How Much?

If your loved one was a Muslim, you are required to obtain an Inheritance Certificate from the Syariah Court. This certificate specifies the beneficiaries of the estate and their respective shares of the Deceased’s estate. You may apply for the certificate online here.

If your loved one was a non-Muslim, the following table shows who is entitled to how much of the Deceased’s estate:

WHO SURVIVED THE DECEASED

HOW MUCH DO THEY GET?

Spouse (No Issue or Parents) Spouse – 100%
Spouse and Issue Spouse – 50%

Issue – the remaining 50% in equal proportions

Issue (No Spouse) Issue – 100% in equal proportions
Spouse and Parents (No Issue) Spouse – 50%

Parents – 50% in equal proportions

Parents (No Spouse or Issue) Parents – 100% in equal proportions
Siblings and Children of Deceased Siblings (No Spouse, Issue or Parents) Siblings – 100% in equal proportions (the children of any deceased sibling will inherit their parent’s share)
Grandparents (No Spouse, Issue, Parents, Siblings or Children of Siblings) Grandparents – 100% in equal proportions
Uncles and Aunts (No Spouse, Issue, Parents, Siblings, Children of Siblings or Grandparents) Uncles and Aunts – 100% in equal proportions
None of the Above Government – 100%

Explanatory Notes:

  • ‘Issue’ means children and descendants of deceased children
  • The descendants of deceased children will inherit their deceased parents’ shares
  • “Children” mean legitimate children and children adopted by orders of court in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei
  • A legitimate child is a child born to parents who are married to each other, whether before the child’s birth or after.

The First 2 Things To Do

Before filing an application for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration, you should:

  • Obtain the death certificate of the Deceased
    • Depending on the will and those he or she left behind, you may also need to obtain the death certificates of next-of-kin or executors who have passed on.
  • Obtain the original will, if there is one.
    • You may do so by making enquiries with the Wills Registry at the Public Trustee’s Office, and making enquiries with relatives and associates of the Deceased.

Important Considerations Before Filing an Application for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration

Before filing an application for a Grant, you should make the requisite checks to answer the following 3 questions:

  • Is a Grant necessary?
  • Can the assets be transferred directly to the beneficiaries?
  • Is the total value of the estate more than S$50,000?

You should make enquiries with the relevant institutions, such as HDB and banks where your loved ones have deposited their monies whether it is necessary to apply for a grant. Some assets (such as CPF monies, flats held under arrangements known as joint tenancies, certain types of insurance policies with nominations) are transferred or distributed without a grant.

You should also make the necessary enquiries to ascertain whether there is any foreign person beneficially entitled to an estate or interest in residential property. If so, such estate or interest must be disposed of within 5 years from the date of death, as required under the Residential Property Act.

If your enquiries show that a grant is not necessary, you should liaise with the institutions and corporations involved to arrange for the transfer or distribution of assets directly to the beneficiaries.

If the assets cannot be transferred or distributed directly to the beneficiaries, and the total value of the estate does not exceed S$50,000, and your loved one did not leave behind a will, you may apply to the Public Trustee to request for the Public Trustee to administer the estate.

If the total value of the estate does exceed S$50,000, then you would have to take out an application for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. You have a choice to apply for legal aid from the Legal Aid Bureau if you qualify for it, make an application yourself, or engage solicitors to make the application on your behalf. We would strongly advise you to engage a lawyer to do it for you.

We shall now present you with a step-by-step guide to the process of obtaining  Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration, as the case may be.

Step-By-Step Guide to Applying for and Obtaining a Grant of Probate

Please take note that this guide covers only straightforward cases in Probate. Straightforward cases are those where:

  • the Deceased was domiciled in Singapore (i.e. the Deceased was resident in Singapore and had intended for Singapore to be his or her permanent home);
  • the death occurred on or after 15 February 2008; and
  • the value of the estate is less than $5 million.

The process is as follows:

1. Prepare the following forms:

  • Service Bureau Form for Application for Probate (The form may be downloaded here).
  • Schedule of Assets (if you have the relevant information regarding the assets of the deceased at this stage) (The form may be downloaded here).
  • Renunciation of other executors (if applicable) (The form may be downloaded here).

2. See a lawyer (solicitor) to get the following documents certified as true:

  • Copy of the Will
  • Copy of the Death Certificate
  • Copies of Death Certificates of other executors (if any)

3. Go to the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at:

133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point #19-01/02, Singapore 059413
Tel: (65) 6538 9507, Fax: (65) 6438 6350

Operating Hours: Mondays to Fridays: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Saturdays: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)

  • Using the Deceased’s NRIC Number, conduct a check on the court’s record of probate cases and caveats filed in relation to the estate at the Service Bureau. These checks (searches) must be done on the day of the filing of the probate application and for the present year. A summary report of the searches must be attached to the Originating Summons together with the full report of any existing case or caveat.
  • Submit the prepared forms, certified true copies of supporting documents and filing fees at the Service Bureau. The Service Bureau will prepare the Originating Summons, Probate Statement and Schedule of Assets (if available) using information provided in the Service Bureau Form for Application for Probate. The Service Bureau will file the documents on your behalf.
  • Submit the Original Will at the Probate Section for verification (latest by 4:30 p.m. on the next working day after filing the application for a grant). The Probate Section will return the original Will after verification.

4. If the application is in order and accepted by the Court, the Court will assign a Family Court Probate (FC/P) number to the application and fix a hearing date.

  • You should then collect the accepted documents from the Service Bureau once informed to do so.

5. Using the accepted documents as supporting documents, you should prepare the Supporting Affidavit and the Administration Oath, attend before a Commissioner for Oaths to swear or affirm both documents, and file both documents at the Service Bureau within 14 days of filing the application.

  • Once you have been informed to do so, you should collect the Supporting Affidavit and the Administration Oath from the Service Bureau.
  • If everything is in order, the Court will grant the application and inform you not to attend the hearing. If you do not receive any notification allowing you not to attend, you are still required to attend Court on the assigned hearing date.
  • You will then receive a letter from the Court regarding the Request to Extract the Grant

6. Extract the Grant

  • Prepare the Service Bureau form for the Request to Extract the Grant.
  • Attend at the Service Bureau to file the Request.
  • Using the Deceased’s NRIC Number, you should conduct a check on the court’s record of probate cases and caveats filed in relation to the estate at the Service Bureau. The checks (searches) must be done on the day of the filing of the Request and for the present year. A summary report of the searches is to be attached to the Request together with the full report of any existing case or caveat
  • File the Request (if you require a physical printed Grant, you may request for the same in the Request)
  • The Court will process the request and issue the Grant if everything is in order.
  • Collect the Grant from the Service Bureau when the Grant is issued (if you requested for a printed Grant, you may collect the same from the Family Justice Courts Probate Section).
  • Some institutions which control the Deceased’s assets require a certified true copy of the Grant before allowing you to administer and distribute the assets. If this is the case for you, you should prepare a Request for Certified True Copy of Documents and file the same at the Service Bureau.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The above applies for cases where you have the relevant information to file the Schedule of Assets. If you do not have the required information to file the Schedule of Assets, there is a separate procedure, for which it is best to approach a lawyer to guide you.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for and Obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration

Please take note that this guide covers only straightforward cases of Letters of Administration. Straightforward cases are those where:

  • the Deceased was domiciled in Singapore (i.e. the Deceased was resident in Singapore and had intended for Singapore to be his or her permanent home);
  • the death occurred on or after 15 February 2008;
  • the value of the estate is less than $5 million;
  • the applicant is a beneficiary of the estate;
  • the beneficiaries with prior rights to apply for a grant have renounced their rights;
  • the beneficiaries are not below 21 years of age; and
  • the beneficiaries do not lack mental capacity.

The process is as follows:

1. Prepare the following forms:

  • Service Bureau Form for Application for Letters of Administration (The form may be downloaded here).
  • Schedule of Assets (if you have the relevant information regarding the assets of the deceased at this stage) (The form may be downloaded here).
  • Renunciation of beneficiaries with prior rights (if applicable) (The form may be downloaded here).

2. See a lawyer (solicitor) to get the following documents certified as true:

  • Copy of the Death Certificate
  • Copies of Death Certificates of other next-of-kin
  • Copy of Inheritance Certificate (for Muslim estates) which is obtained from the Syariah Court
  • Copy of Divorce Certificate (if the deceased was divorced)

3. Go to the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at:

133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point #19-01/02, Singapore 059413
Tel: (65) 6538 9507, Fax: (65) 6438 6350

Operating Hours: Mondays to Fridays: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Saturdays: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)

  • Using the Deceased’s NRIC Number, conduct a check on the court’s record of probate cases and caveats filed in relation to the estate at the Service Bureau. These checks (searches) must be done on the day of the filing of the application and for the present year. A summary report of the searches must be attached to the Originating Summons together with the full report of any existing case or caveat.
  • Submit the prepared forms, certified true copies of supporting documents and filing fees at the Service Bureau. The Service Bureau will prepare the Originating Summons, Probate Statement and Schedule of Assets (if available) using information provided in the Service Bureau Form for Application for Letters of Administration. The Service Bureau will file the documents on your behalf.

4. If the application is in order and accepted by the Court, the Court will assign a Family Court Probate (FC/P) number to the application and fix a hearing date.

  • You should then collect the accepted documents from the Service Bureau once informed to do so.

5. Using the accepted documents as supporting documents, you should prepare the Supporting Affidavit and the Administration Oath, attend before a Commissioner for Oaths to swear or affirm both documents, and file both documents at the Service Bureau within 14 days of filing the application.

  • Once you have been informed to do so, you should collect the Supporting Affidavit and the Administration Oath from the Service Bureau
  • If everything is in order, the Court will grant the application and inform you not to attend the hearing. If you do not receive any notification allowing you not to attend, you are still required to attend Court on the assigned hearing date.
  • You will then receive a letter from the Court regarding the Request to Extract the Grant

6. Extract the Grant

  • Prepare the Service Bureau form for the Request to Extract the Grant.
  • Attend at the Service Bureau to file the Request.
  • Using the Deceased’s NRIC Number, you should conduct a check on the court’s record of probate cases and caveats filed in relation to the estate at the Service Bureau. The checks (searches) must be done on the day of the filing of the Request and for the present year. A summary report of the searches is to be attached to the Request together with the full report of any existing case or caveat
  • File the Request (if you require a physical printed Grant, you may request for the same in the Request)
  • The Court will process the request and issue the Grant if everything is in order.
  • Collect the Grant from the Service Bureau when the Grant is issued (if you requested for a printed Grant, you may collect the same from the Family Justice Courts Probate Section).
  • Some institutions which control the Deceased’s assets require a certified true copy of the Grant before allowing you to administer and distribute the assets. If this is the case for you, you should prepare a Request for Certified True Copy of Documents and file the same at the Service Bureau.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The above applies for cases where you have the relevant information to file the Schedule of Assets. If you do not have the required information to file the Schedule of Assets, there is a separate procedure, for which it is best to approach a lawyer to guide you.

Conclusion

Losing a loved one is never easy. Along with the grief comes a duty to do right by them. This includes ensuring that their debts are paid off, that their funeral expenses are taken care of, and that their property, monies and assets are distributed in the amounts they wished to the people they chose.

The laws of probate and intestate succession facilitates this process.

Although you may opt to do it all yourself, in our experience, it is much easier and less consuming of your time to engage a lawyer for a hassle-free experience. In many cases, the issues involved are complex and the sheer amount of correspondence with the courts and other organisations are beyond the common Singaporean.

Do consider IRB Law for your probate and letters of administration needs. This is our bread-and-butter. We do it well, fast and at very reasonable rates.

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