What is Probate and How Long Does it Take?

What is Probate and How Long Does it Take?

What is Probate?

After a person passed away with a valid Will, his or her executor(s) (and trustee(s), if applicable), who are appointed by the deceased as stated in his or her Will, has to apply to a court for a Grant of Probate.

However, if there is no Will created by the deceased, or the will is deemed invalid, the deceased’s next-of-kin has to make an application to the court for a Grant of Letters of Administration.

As you will see from the complex steps below, applying for a grant of probate is not a quick and simple process. It truly does make sense to hire a lawyer, who is familiar with the process to execute this on your behalf.

Where to file the application?

Gross Value of the Deceased’s Estate Which Court?
Less than $ 3 million Family Justice Courts
More than $ 3 million Family Division of the High Court

If the deceased did not appoint an executor in his or her Will, the court will grant the Letters of Administration with the Will annexed to the person(s) the court regards as “fittest to administer the deceased’s estate” (section 13 of the Probate and Administration Act).

Since there are many documents involved in the Grant of Probate application, it is highly recommended to seek professional legal assistance from a lawyer. In addition, if it is likely that the probate application will be contentious, it is highly advisable to seek this legal advice.

How do you apply for the grant of probate?

The lawyer who acts for you in the Grant of Probate application will assist you through the process as follows:

Preliminary step: Preparation of documents for application.

The Family Justice Courts’ website provides the application forms for the Grant of Probate. The documents are as follows:

a) Ex parte Originating Summons

The first document needed for the application is the ex parte originating summons. The meaning of “ex parte” is that there is no other party involved in the application, i.e. the executor(s) is the only applicant.

The Originating Summons can be filed by using Form 48 in Appendix A of the Family Justice Court Practice Directions (FJCPD). In this form, the applicant shall provide the information as follows:

  1. Deceased’s details
  2. Applicant(s)’s details
  3. The order requested – “Probate be granted to the Applicant(s)”

Furthermore, the applicant must attach a Certificate of Results of Caveat and Probate Application Searches in Form 52 of the FJCPD to the Originating Summons. This is to certify that a search for any caveat and probate application related to the deceased’s estate is completed and there is no prior caveat or probate application found.

The applicant shall also attach the digital copy of the search report summary or any positive search outcomes of a caveat or prior probate application.

b) Statement for Probate or Administration – Form 51

The second document required is the Statement for Probate or Administration in Form 51 of the FJCPD. The application is required to provide certain information related to the deceased, the deceased’s estate and the applicant(s). The information required is as follows:

  1. Deceased’s particulars, information regarding his or her death, and domicile i.e. the country that the deceased lives in before his or her death);
  2. The estimated value of the deceased’s estate (confirmation of the gross value – more/less than $ 3 million);
  3. Confirmation – copy of the Will filed is a certified true copy (CTC) of the Will (the original Will is submitted to the Family Justice Courts for verification);
  4. Confirmation – applicant(s) is appointed as an executor in the Will;
  5. Whether the application is filed within 6 months from the death of the deceased (if not, provide reason(s) for the delay).

In practice, a lawyer will obtain the above information from the applicant before filing in the electronic form on behalf of the applicant.

c) Death Certificate – Certified True Copy (CTC)

The applicant shall submit a certified true copy of the death certificate of the deceased to the court. The court verifies that the owner of the estate was legally certified as a deceased.

For the applicant who is unable to provide the death certificate, the applicant may do a search for a Death Record (if the applicant cannot remember the date of death) or apply for a Death Extract (if the applicant can provide the deceased’s full name, NRIC and date of death). The applicant can apply for these searches on the online extracts portal of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

d) Will – Certified True Copy (CTC)

The certified true copy of the Will to be filed shall consist of the certification: “This is a certified true copy of the original will of (name of the deceased) dated (date)” on a cover page that will be attached to the CTC of the Will.

Subsequent to the filing of the aforesaid documents and the CTC of the Will, the original Will shall be filed to the Family Justice Courts’ Probate Counter before 4:30 pm during working days. Once the court verifies the Will’s authenticity, the court will return the original Will to the applicant or the applicant’s lawyer.

The applicant should also make sure that the Will is written in English. If the Will was written in any other languages, the applicant shall apply for a translation by the court translator (a lawyer will be able to assist the applicant in this). The court translator is required to verify the accuracy of his or her translation in a supporting affidavit.

However, there are exceptional situations as follows:

  1. If the original Will is in the foreign court’s custody, it is permissible to submit a CTC of the Will instead of the original Will.
  2. If the original Will is lost, the Probate and Administration Act specifies that a draft copy of the Will may be submitted if both the draft and final Will are appeared to be identical. Such a circumstance may lead to contest and thus it is highly advisable for the applicant to seek for legal advice.

e) Caveat & Probate Search

On the day of the probate application, applicant shall conduct a search on both the records of caveats and probate applications. A digital copy of the search report (including the results of a positive search, if any) must be attached to the original summons.

Step 1: Main Application Submission

The main application involves filing the aforesaid documents in court. If you engage a lawyer, he or she will file the application electronically using the eLitigation portal. If an executor(s) intends to apply without a lawyer’s help, he or she is required to apply via the eLitigation Service Bereaus’ counters.

Once the applicant has file all the documents, a provisional probate case number and a checklist of items will be generated. As stated above, your lawyer is required to submit the original Will to the Probate Counter at the Family Justice Courts by 4:30pm on the next working day. Then, the applicant is required to provide the supporting documents as explained in the sections below.

Step 2: Supporting Documents Submission

a) Administration Oath

The executor or trustee who applies for the right to administer the deceased’s estate shall give an undertaking to the court that he or she will distribute the estate according to the deceased’s instructions in the final Will. The executor shall pay the deceased’s debts using the estate’s monies (section 28 of the Probate and Administration Act).

If you engage a lawyer, your lawyer will prepare the Administration Oath with Form 54 in Appendix A of the Family Justice Court Practice Directions (FJCPD).  The applicant should sign the Administration Oath in the presence of a Commissioner for Oaths, after that the Administration Oath is filed electronically on the eLitigation portal.

 b) Supporting Affidavit

The applicant shall file a Supporting Affidavit within the deadline i.e. within 2 to 3 weeks from the filing of the Administration Oath. A lawyer will prepare for the applicant a Support Affidavit (Form 225 in Appendix A of the FJCPD) and  in the presence of the Commissioner for Oaths, the applicant signs the Supporting Affidavit.

The documents that are required to be exhibited in the Supporting Affidavit are as follows:

  • Statement (filed and accepted by the Court)
  • The CTC of the Death Certificate and deceased’s Last/Final Will
  • Schedule of Assets (please refer to the section below)

c) Schedule of Assets

The Schedule of Assets is a list that reveals all deceased’s properties and debts in Singapore as at the date of death.

The applicant shall find out the values of deceased’s properties (both real estate and other personal properties) as at the date of death.

Real estate: deceased’s HDB flat or private property or part-share in a flat or property.

Personal property: any other property beside real estate. It may include the deceased’s monies in bank account(s), fixed deposit account(s) and unit trust account(s), stocks and shares, insurance policy (necessary to check whether the policy is assigned to anyone), vehicle(s), costly jewellery and items in the safe deposit box of the deceased. Please take note that this list is not exhaustive and the applicant shall consult his or her lawyer for detail advice.

It is important to note that, savings in the deceased’s CPF accounts are excluded from the Estate. If the deceased had nominated someone to inherit the CPF monies, the CPF monies shall be distributed to the deceased’s nominee(s). However, if the deceased did not nominate anyone to inherit the savings, the deceased’s monies will be distributed by the Public Trustee under the laws of intestacy – to be inherited by the family members who rank according to the distribution rules (section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act).

The deceased’s property at abroad shall be listed in the Schedule as well.

After the deceased’s assets are confirmed, the applicant or the applicant’s lawyer will file to the eLitigation portal, the Schedule of Assets in pursuant to Form 226 in Appendix A of the FJCPD, along with the checklist and the Supporting Affidavit. If there is any amendment to the Schedule of Assets, a separate application is required.

Step 3: Court Hearing

Subsequent to the filing and acceptance of the application and the Administration Oath, the court will notify the applicant or the applicant’s lawyer regarding the hearing date and time.

The applicant’s lawyer shall attend the probate hearing except the supporting documents i.e. Supporting Affidavit and Schedule of Assets are filed and accepted by the court prior to the hearing date. In this situation, the court may cancel the hearing.

Step 4: Supplementary Affidavit and Schedule of Assets Submission

If the applicant cannot confirm the details of the deceased’s assets during early stage of the application process, the applicant may get assistance from the lawyer to write to the relevant financial institutions. Since the financial institutions will demand an express authorisation from the applicant/executor(s), the lawyer will request the applicant/executor(s) to sign a Letter of Authorisation.

The court, based on the Support Affidavit, grant an ‘Order-in-Terms’ of the probate application. Then, the applicant or the applicant’s lawyer can write to the relevant financial institutions to obtain from them the detailed information about the deceased’s outstanding accounts/shares/monies.

After the applicant’s lawyer has obtained the relevant information, he or she can then fill in the Schedule of Assets on behalf of the applicant. The applicant will be requested to sign the Supplementary Affidavit exhibits the complete Schedule of Assets. The lawyer will file these two documents on the eLitigation portal. Any amendment to the Schedule of Assets shall be filed separately (another application).

Step 5: Grant of Probate Extraction

After the court accepted the Supplementary Affidavit and Schedule of Assets as well as confirmed that there are no documents being left out, the applicant’s lawyer is allowed to request for extracting the Grant of Probate.

A final search is required in order to make sure that there are no caveats lodged against the deceased’s estate or any pending application related to the deceased’s estate. Submission of the final search result is necessary for requesting the extraction.

The Executor(s) and/or Trustee(s) is not required to sign an Administration Bond as the deceased had in his final Wil, entrusted his or her estate to the Executor(s) (and Trustee(s)).

Once all the documents are in order and all relevant fees are paid, the court will prepare and issue the Grant of Probate with the Schedule of Assets attached. The applicant’s lawyer will receive an electronic copy via eLitigation portal.

The court will not issue a Grant of Probate unless the Executor(s) (and trustee(s)) has paid the deceased’s inheritance tax which is applicable to persons who passed away prior to 15 February 2009 and not on or after that.

The applicant may seek his or her lawyer’s assistance to get a Paper Grant with the Court’s red seal on it. Once the Executor(s) (and Trustee(s)) received the Grant of Probate, he or she may start to manage and distribute the deceased’s estate.

How can we help?

If you managed to make it this far, well done. Applying for a Grant of Probate is a long, tedious and complicated process. It is best to get a lawyer’s help in this matter to ensure you have a smooth and less burdened journey in Grant of Probate application. I.R.B Law has plenty of experience in this process and offers transparent and affordable fees to handle the process for you.

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