Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy. The memories of your time together, the good and bad, are things that will remain with you forever. A question arises upon their passing; how will you settle the properties that your loved one has left behind?
When a Muslim person dies, their loved ones must do the following with the estate that the deceased had left behind in this order:
- discharge all his religious obligations such as zakat, kaffarah or penalties for oath;
- to pay for their funeral expenses;
- to settle all their debts if any;
- to execute their will if any; and
- to distribute the remaining estate among their heirs according to faraid rules
However, before you can access the deceased’s assets and property, there are several steps that you will need to know when handling estate administration.
Step 1: Obtaining an Inheritance Certificate in Singapore
You will first need to apply for an Inheritance Certificate from the Syariah Court before you can even access the deceased’s properties. An Inheritance Certificate will assist in the distribution of the deceased’s estate according to Muslim Law. It is required by the Public Trustee and the Family Justice Courts when applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration or Grant of Probate.
This certificate will identify and certify any lawful heirs that the deceased’s estate will be distributed to based on the rules of faraid and Syariah Law.
The Syariah Court is the only institution that can issue an Inheritance Certificate. You can apply for one online at www.syariahcourt.gov.sg. You must ensure that all the particulars required for the deceased and beneficiaries are keyed in properly as any incorrect information would require you to re-apply for the certificate and pay the application fees again.
Who can apply for an inheritance certificate in Singapore?
Not anyone can apply for an Inheritance Certificate. A beneficiary of the inheritance, meaning a spouse, a parent or child of the deceased (must be a Muslim who is 21 years old and above), The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), A law firm (acting on behalf of the beneficiary), Consultancy firm/agency (on behalf of the beneficiary) and a Court of law are the only groups of people who can apply for an Inheritance Certificate to the deceased.
How long is the process in Singapore?
If the application is successful, payment can be made to the Syariah Court 3 days from the date of the online submission. The Inheritance Certificate will only be issued to the applicant on the day of payment and will automatically expire if payment is not made within 14 days from the date of the application.
Step 2: Grant of Probate and/or Letters of Administration Application in Singapore
Once you have received the Inheritance Certificate, you can then apply to the Family Court for a Grant of Probate and/or Letters of Administration to enable the Court to appoint someone to manage the estate. A Grant of Probate and/or Letters of Administration refer to the authority given to the personal representatives of a deceased person. In essence,
a) a Grant of Probate authorizes an Executor as stated in the deceased’s will to administer the deceased’s estate in accordance with the directions of the will, and
b) a Grant of Letters of Administration authorizes an Administrator to administer the deceased’s estate according to faraid rules (where there is no Will).
In all applications for probate or letters of administration related to the deceased, the school of law (Mahzab) that the deceased subscribed to must be included, together with any particulars required by other written law. The Registrar of the Civil Court will be guided by the Inheritance Certificate when they have to determine who the beneficiaries are and in what proportions they take.
What documents must I prepare to obtain a Grant of Probate and/or Letters of Administration in Singapore?
As an Executor or an Administrator, you will need to prepare and submit an Originating Summons and Administration Oath to commence the probate process, a certified true copy of the deceased’s will (if any), caveat searches of the deceased’s assets, certified true copy of death certificate and any other particulars of the deceased and their assets to name a few.
The Originating Summons to the Court is usually heard a few days after it is filed if the Registrar needs to clarify any matter. It is normally granted within a week from the date it is filed. Once all the documents that the Court requires are in order, and all fees are paid, the Court will prepare and issue the Grant of Probate with the engrossed Schedule of Assets annexed to you. These documents can get rather complicated so you should get a trained Singapore lawyer to assist you with these documents.
Step 3: Execution
What do you do If there is a Will
If there is a will, the Executor will have to carry out the wishes of the deceased as stated in the will, as long as it is aligned with faraid rules and Syariah laws. Any portion of the will which contravenes Syariah laws such as giving away more than one-third of their assets will be disregarded as seen in the case of Mohamed Ismail bin Ibrahim and Another v Mohammad Taha bin Ibrahim. Unless the faraid heirs all come together agree to execute the deceased’s will, the remaining assets will be distributed according to faraid rules.
Aside from this, the Executor must be prepared to resolve any outstanding income tax liability, debts or liability of the deceased. It must be noted that that the named executor to expressly renounce his right to execute the will either verbally or by signing off a document stating as so.
What do you do If there is no will?
If the deceased did not leave a will behind, his property would be apportioned based on faraid rules. Asset matters such as bank savings and jewelry can be distributable according to faraid rules.
Matters related to joint-owned properties such as HDBs, life insurance payouts, and nomination by your loved one for their CPF money will not be counted as faraid distributable properties as they fall under the purview of Civil Law. These will belong to the person that the deceased had passed it on to.
How Can We Help You
The documents that you will need to prepare and the procedures to settle your loved one’s estate and property may be too technical for you to understand alone. Worry not, at I.R.B. Law; we have experienced Syariah trained lawyers who are well versed in drafting Muslim wills in Singapore. We will be able to guide you through the process and explain to you each stage of will procedures.