Grant of Probate vs Grant of Letters of Administration in Singapore: What’s the Difference?

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Written by Lee Shen Han

A death in the family is usually a tumultuous time, particularly if it’s unexpected. During the mourning period, the last thing any family member wants to think about is how to handle the deceased’s estate. Unfortunately, the reality is the financial assets and debts of the deceased do not just disappear into thin air once he or she passes away. Someone, usually a close family member, has to take charge of these matters.

Depending on the situation, an appropriate person (usually known as a personal representative) will have to extract either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to manage the assets and debts of the deceased in Singapore. These grants are simply legal documents that authorise the personal representative of the deceased to manage the deceased’s estate.

That said, obtaining either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration may not be necessary depending on the size of the estate. For example, if the deceased had only a trivial amount remaining in his or her bank account, the bank may permit withdrawal of the balance without a grant.

If the deceased had assets in other countries, it may be necessary to apply for grants in those other countries in which the assets were located. However, for the purposes of this article, we will only discuss grants in Singapore.

When Will You Need a Grant of Probate?

This Grant of Probate is a court document which empowers the executor(s) to carry out the last wishes of the deceased as expressed in the deceased’s will.

When a person (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) drafts a valid will in Singapore before passing away, the person or persons named in the will as executor(s) of the estate will have to apply to the Singapore Family Justice Courts for a Grant of Probate.

While most wills drafted in Singapore will usually have executors named within, there are occasional scenarios where there is no named executor, or that the executor(s) named within are unwilling to handle the administration of the estate. In such a situation, a person the court deems to be the most appropriate person to administer the estate will be appointed, and the grant that will be extracted is known as the “Grant of Letters of Administration with the Will annexed” instead of a Grant of Probate.

When Will You Need a Grant of Letters of Administration?

If a person passes away without leaving behind a will, the grant that will be extracted is known as the Grant of Letters of Administration.

If the person was a non-Muslim domiciled in Singapore, the Intestate Succession Act (ISA) would apply and the most appropriate person based on the order of priority in the ISA would usually apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration.

However, if the deceased was a Muslim and domiciled in Singapore, the Administration of Muslim Law Act and Syariah law would apply instead. The appropriate person to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration, and administer the estate, would be the person with the highest number of shares in the estate in accordance with the Inheritance Certificate (a document which has to be obtained from the Syariah Court prior to the application for the Grant of Letters of Administration).

While most Grants of Letters of Administration do not involve wills, there are situations when the deceased had drafted a will but there are no named executors willing to administer the deceased’s estate according to the instructions in the deceased’s will. As mentioned earlier, a Grant of Letters of Administration with a Will annexed will have to be extracted in such cases instead.

What are the Main Differences Between a Grant of Probate and a Grant of Letters of Administration?

Grant of Probate Grant of Letters of Administration
1. You extract a Grant of Probate when there is a valid will and there are named executor(s) who are willing to administer the estate of the deceased. You extract a Grant of Letters of Administration when there is no will involved, or there is no named executor willing to administer the estate of the deceased.
2. Issued to the executor(s) named in the will. Usually issued to the spouse or the next-of-kin of the deceased.

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