When Will Someone Need Letters of Administration?

When Will Someone Need Letters of Administration?

When someone passes away and leaves no will, Singapore law sets out a process for the administration of the estate of the person who passed away (i.e. deceased), outlining persons who can act as administrators of the deceased assets and other affairs (such as liabilities) under an order (or grant) of the court referred to as Letters of Administration.

Conversely, when a person passes but has written a will before their death, the court gives effect to the will through an order (or grant) of the court referred to as a Grant of Probate. The foregoing is general propositions and sometimes, applying for Letters of Administration has to be used instead of probate even if there is a will e.g. where the executors appointed in the will fail to act for various reasons.

The rules related to the distribution of so-called intestate estates for non-Muslims, not covered by the will, are outlined in the Intestate Succession Act of Singapore. The procedure for extracting the grant of Letters of Administration is defined by the Probate and Administration Act. The Family Justice Courts have gone even further by providing a Probate and Administration Toolkit for those who are seeking guidance to file an application and become the administrators of the intestate estates.

At the same time, these documents may be too hard to process and file for those next of kin of the deceased who are going through a stressful time following the death of their closest ones. In such a situation, the assistance of an experienced estate lawyer will be invaluable when collecting and checking documentation, filling in the forms, and interacting with the court, especially when dealing with letter of administration Singapore procedures.

Letter of Administration Singapore

What Are the Letters of Administration?

The Grant of Letters of Administration in Singapore is a document issued by the Family Justice Courts, authorizing persons named in the grant to act as administrators of the deceased’s estate. This document is issued where the deceased passed away without writing a will, which falls under the purview of **letter of administration Singapore**.

There are also a number of cases when there is a will, but the court grants the Letters of Administration with the Will annexed instead of probate. Such cases include situations when:

  1. There are no executors appointed by will,
  2. The executors are incapable of acting
  3. Executors renounced their right or did not appear to extract probate,
  4. All executors die before the testator who made the will,
  5. All executors die before obtaining probate or before distributing the estate.

Who Can Become an Administrator of an Estate?

The list of persons who can apply for the Grant of the Letters of Administration and be appointed as administrators of the intestate estate is defined in the Probate and Administration Act. According to the law, the court may grant the letter of administration Singapore to the husband or widow or next of kin or any of them.

The court may appoint up to 4 administrators who will be acting jointly, in which case they have to agree on all their actions regarding the estate. The court would appoint no less than two administrators for estates where at least one of the beneficiaries is below 21 years of age. If a beneficiary is an infant, minor or mentally incapacitated, his or her lawful guardian/deputy would step in and apply for the grant.

Documents Required to File an Application

The list of documents that must be submitted to initiate an application for **Grant of Letters of Administration** includes the certificate of death of the deceased as well as his or her divorce certificate and death certificate of next of kin in relevant cases. If applicable, a foreign grant must also be presented.

The list of other forms which must be filed include:

  • Originating summons for Letters of Administration,
  • Schedule of Assets,
  • Supporting Affidavit,
  • Administration Oath,
  • Request to Extract the Grant.

In case, when one of the next of kin who has a prior right amongst other next of kin (i.e. a spouse has a prior right versus the children of the deceased to apply for letters of administration) decides to renounce the right to apply for the Letters of Administration, a Renunciation of the Beneficiaries with the Prior Right must also be submitted together with the application.

Applying for a Letter of Administration Singapore

The filing for the Grant of Letter of Administration begins by gathering the necessary documents and submitting the application form in the Crimsonlogic eLitigation Service Bureau (“Service Bureau”). If no lawyers are assisting in the process, the application should be filed together with the Schedule of Assets. In some situations, when applicants are uncertain about the deceased’s property’s scope, they should inquire with financial institutions about the existence of the deceased estate’s assets and liabilities. The renunciation of the beneficiaries with higher rights, if any, is also submitted at this stage.

At the filing stage, the applicant should check the court’s records for any caveats and potential encumbrances on the estate. This report should be attached to the originating summons. After the caveat checks, all forms and certified documents should be submitted at the Service Bureau, accompanied by the payment of applicable fees.

The Service Bureau will then forward the documents to the Court, which reviews the application. If all the supplied documentation is in order, the court confirms acceptance and sends the applicant an SMS confirmation.

At this juncture, the applicant must furnish the Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath, which must be done within 14 days from filing. Applicants affirm these documents before a Commissioner of Oath, then file them with the Service Bureau.

If all the above steps are completed as per the procedure, the court may grant the application without a hearing, providing a Registrar’s notice to the applicant. The final step is to receive the court’s letter related to the Request to Extract the Grant, which can be obtained by submitting the relevant form available on the e-Litigation portal.

Beneficiaries of Intestate Succession in Singapore

The Intestate Succession Act outlines 9 rules for distributing intestate estates. The law sets the following priority order for beneficiaries:

  1. spouse and children
  2. parents
  3. brothers, sisters, and their children,
  4. grandparents,
  5. uncles and aunts.

According to the law, siblings, their children, grandparents, uncles, and aunts only receive a share of the estate in the absence of higher priority next of kin. If the deceased left no children or parents, the spouse is entitled to the entire estate. Otherwise, the spouse receives half of the intestate property, sharing the remainder with the children or, in their absence, the deceased’s parents.

Other Considerations

According to Singapore law, the intestate property is accessible to the beneficiaries only after the Grant of the Letters of Administration. Until then, the estate technically falls under the Public Trustee. Any next of kin wishing to apply for the grant must do so within six months following the death of the intestate; otherwise, they must state reasons for the delay.

After obtaining the grant, the administrator must resolve all the deceased’s liabilities, including funeral expenses and any unpaid debts. Only after these expenses, costs, and liabilities are settled, the administrator can distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, for Muslims in Singapore, the procedure for distributing intestate property is different. The person holding the highest share in the intestate property, as defined by the Inheritance Certificate, is appointed as the administrator. The other rules related to Muslim intestacy are detailed in the Muslim Law Act and the Syariah Law.


In cases where the deceased has left no will or when the executors fail to carry out its terms for various reasons, further management of the deceased’s estate is fulfilled by the next of kin with the prior right, acting as administrators. The Grant of the Letters of Administration substitutes the Grant of Probate, fulfilling basically the same function, allowing the administrators to get access to the deceased’s property in Singapore.

While the procedure for applying for the Letters of Administration in Singapore may look quite straightforward, the assistance of an experienced estate lawyer can simplify the process.

Glossary and Key Terms

Letters of Administration: A court order or grant issued by the Family Justice Courts in Singapore, authorizing individuals to act as administrators of a deceased person’s estate when there is no will.

Grant of Probate: A court order or grant issued by the Family Justice Courts in Singapore, giving effect to a deceased person’s will and authorizing the appointed executors to administer the estate.

Intestate Succession Act: The law in Singapore that outlines the rules for the distribution of intestate estates (when a person dies without a will) for non-Muslims.

Probate and Administration Act: The law in Singapore that defines the procedure for obtaining grants of probate and letters of administration.

Intestate: Refers to a person who has died without leaving a valid will.

Testator: The person who has written a will.

Executor: A person appointed in a will to carry out the instructions of the deceased and administer the estate.

Beneficiary: A person entitled to receive assets or benefits from a deceased person’s estate.

Intestacy: The condition of dying without a will.

Renunciation of Beneficiaries: The act of voluntarily giving up or refusing the right to apply for letters of administration or probate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are Letters of Administration?

A: Letters of Administration are court-issued documents in Singapore that allow appointed individuals to manage the estate of a deceased person who died without writing a will.

Q: When are Letters of Administration required?

A: Letters of Administration are needed when a person dies without a will (intestate) or when the appointed executors in the will are unable or unwilling to act.

Q: Can Letters of Administration be granted even if there is a will?

A: Yes, in certain situations, when there is a will but the appointed executors cannot act or other complications arise, the court in Singapore may grant Letters of Administration with the will annexed instead of probate.

Q: What documents are required for applying for Letters of Administration?

A: Applying for Letters of Administration in Singapore requires various documents, including the deceased’s death certificate, divorce certificate (if applicable), death certificate of the next of kin (if relevant), and any foreign grant (if applicable). Additionally, specific application forms and affidavits must be submitted.

Q: How long do the next of kin have to apply for Letters of Administration?

A: The next of kin should apply for Letters of Administration within six months of the death of the intestate in Singapore. If there is a delay, they may be required to provide reasons for the delay.

Q: What happens after the grant is obtained?

A: Once the Grant of Letters of Administration is obtained in Singapore, the administrator must settle all liabilities, including funeral expenses and debts, before distributing the estate among the beneficiaries according to the Intestate Succession Act.

Q: What happens if there are multiple beneficiaries with different priorities?

A: The Intestate Succession Act sets a priority order for beneficiaries. Spouses and children have the highest priority, followed by parents, brothers, sisters, and their children, and so on. Each level of beneficiaries inherits if the previous level does not exist.

Q: How can an experienced estate lawyer help in this process?

A: An experienced estate lawyer can provide valuable assistance in applying for Letters of Administration in Singapore, gathering and verifying documentation, and interacting with the court. They can streamline the procedure and provide guidance to the next of kin during this difficult time.

About the author

Mohamed Baiross
Mohamed Baiross

Founding Partner

Baiross is the managing partner of IRB Law LLP. He is an experienced lawyer with an excellent reputation across a broad selection of practice areas including divorce, insolvency, crime, probate, syariah, and civil litigation.

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