How to Get a Copy of a Deceased’s Will in Singapore
If your loved one has passed away leaving behind a will in Singapore, you may want to know how to retrieve a copy of the will. This is especially if you have been appointed as an executor of the will and have the duty to administer your loved one’s assets according to their will. Or, you may be a potential beneficiary who wishes to know if you have an interest in your loved one’s will.
In this article, we outline the relevant processes that you should be aware of to obtain a copy of a will if you are:
If You are the Executor of a Will
The executor of a will is the person responsible for administering the estate of the person who has written the will (known as the testator) and carrying out the testator’s wishes as set out in their will.
If you have been appointed as an executor, the testator would have ideally provided you with instructions on where to locate their will after their death. For example, the testator may have left the will in a drawer at home, with their lawyer or a family member.
However, if you are unable to locate the will, you can consider the following:
Conduct a search of the Wills Registry
The Wills Registry is maintained by the Singapore Academy of Law and is a confidential registry where testators, or their lawyers, can deposit information on their wills.
Do note, however, that the Wills Registry does not keep the actual will or copies of wills. Instead, the Registry stores information relating to the will, such as the:
- Details of the person who made the will, i.e. the testator
- Date of the will
- Details of the person who drew up the will (e.g. the lawyer/law firm)
- Detail of where the will is being kept.
In addition, do also note that access to will-related information being stored in the Wills Registry is available only to the lawyers acting for the testator or their estate, and to the next-of-kin upon the testator’s death.
To carry out the search, the searcher will need to submit identification documents, such as the testator’s NRIC or death certificate. If the searcher is the testator’s next-of-kin, they will also be required to show proof of relationship with the testator. This can include the marriage certificate (for the testator’s spouse), and birth certificate (for the testator’s parents or children).
Contact the lawyer who drafted the will
If you know that the testator had approached a lawyer to draft the will, you can also contact the lawyer and/or law firm to check if they have the original will, or a copy of it.
As the executor of the will, the lawyer can disclose the contents of the will to you.
If you are unsure which lawyer had drawn up the will for the testator, you can either conduct a search through the Wills Registry (as outlined above), or place a notice with the Law Society of Singapore’s Information on Wills service.
This notice is disseminated to all members of the Law Society of Singapore. You may be contacted by the lawyer or law firm that drafted the will if they come across the notice.
If You are a Potential Beneficiary of a Will
If you are a potential beneficiary or unsure if you have an interest in the testator’s will, you can consider the following to obtain a copy of the will:
Conduct a search of the Wills Registry
As mentioned above, you can conduct a search of the Wills Registry to retrieve certain information on the will. If you are the testator’s next-of-kin, you are permitted to conduct a search of the Wills Registry for information on the testator’s will.
However, do note that you are required to provide proof of relationship with the testator, such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate, before you can proceed with the search.
Contact the lawyer who drafted the will
If you know that the testator had engaged a lawyer to draft the will, you can also check with the lawyer or their law firm to see if they have kept the original will or a copy of it.
Do note that the lawyer can disclose the contents of the will only to the executors until a Grant of Probate has been issued in respect of the will. A Grant of Probate is a court order that empowers the executor to carry out the instructions in the will. It is usually applied for by the executor.
However, the executors may consent to the disclosure of the will’s contents before the Grant of Probate has been issued.
Apply to the Singapore court to have the will brought in
Finally, you may consider making an application to the court for an order to bring in the will. Under section 54 of the Probate and Administration Act, an interested party (such as a potential beneficiary) can apply to court to order a person whom they have reason to believe that the person has the will, or knows about the will, to:
- Produce the will at the Family Registry of the State Courts, or
- Come before the court to answer questions about the will.
This application needs to be made to a judge by Originating Summons and served on every party concerned. For more information, you may refer to our article on filing an Originating Summons in Singapore.
The processes outlined above are intended to provide a general guidance on what you can expect if you need to retrieve a copy of the testator’s will in Singapore. They may differ depending on the circumstances and whether the matter is a straightforward or complex and potentially contentious one.
With this in mind, it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice from a probate lawyer on how to proceed with getting a copy of the will. A probate lawyer can assist with the various legal processes outlined above and make the necessary applications (e.g. applying for a Grant of Probate) on your behalf if you need to retrieve a copy of the will.
Seeking legal advice can also help avoid any future inconveniences that you might encounter from attempting to file the relevant applications on your own. These include having to attend court personally if there are any issues with your application because it had been incorrectly completed – which might further delay the process of obtaining a copy of the will.
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