What Happens to the HDB Flat When One Owner Passes Away?
If you own a HDB flat together with another person(s), there are several legal issues to consider in the event one owner passes away. This article will discuss what happens after the death of one owner and what are the steps the remaining owner(s) can take. First, it is important to distinguish whether the HDB flat is under a joint tenant or tenancy-in-common scheme.
Joint Tenant Scheme
If the HDB flat is under a joint tenant scheme, the deceased joint tenant’s share or interest in the flat will be transferred to the eligible remaining owners. To be eligible, the remaining owner must be a Singapore Citizen or a Permanent Resident and at least 21 years old.
The remaining owners must lodge a Notice of Death with the Singapore Land Authority (“SLA”). There are two ways to do this.
The first way is to approach HDB which will help you prepare the Notice of Death and inform the remaining joint-owners to sign the documents at the HDB Branch managing the flat. This will incur some registration and conveyancing fees, and requires the following documents:
- Identity cards of remaining joint-owners
- Original death certificate of deceased owner
- Evidence of estate duty clearance for deceased owner’s estate (for death occurring before 15 February 2008)
- Duplicate lease (if any)
The second way is to lodge the Notice of Death directly with SLA. This requires the following documents:
- The Notice of Death
- Lodgment Form
- Documents to show evidence of death of the co-owner (e.g. original or certified extract of the Death Certificate of the deceased, or the original or certified true copy of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration of the estate of the deceased)
- Certificate of Title or Duplicate Lease
- Production Form in accordance with Part 3 Item 19 of the Consolidated Practice Circulars 2003
Note that the lodgement hours are strictly between 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
If you are using the soft copy of the Notice of Death form, which is found on the SLA website, note that it cannot be handwritten but must be typed, printed or photographically produced. In addition, a witness of at least 21 years old is required to witness the execution of the Notice of Death. The name, ID number and signature of the witness must be clearly stated in the execution clause of the Notice of Death.
If the HDB flat is under a tenancy-in-common scheme, the deceased owner’s share or interest in the flat will be distributed according to their will, if there is one, or according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act if there is no will.
If the deceased owner has made a will, the deceased’s interest in the flat will be distributed according to the will. The deceased’s family should engage a lawyer to obtain a Grant of Probate, which is required to give the executor named in the will the requisite legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate.
However, if there is no will, the deceased’s interest in the flat will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. The deceased’s family should engage a lawyer to apply to court for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This is required to give the administrator, usually the deceased’s next-of-kin, the requisite legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate.
After obtaining the legal authority to manage the estate, the executor or the administrator must register their legal right. This may be done by a lawyer or the HDB Branch upon application. If you approach the HDB Branch, the following are necessary documents in the application process:
- Original copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration and Statement for Grant of Letters of Administration or Grant of Probate and will
- Original copy of the Syariah Court Inheritance Certificate (for Muslim estates only)
- A copy of the deceased owner’s death certificate
- Duplicate lease of the deceased’s flat
- Identity card(s) of all flat owner(s) and Administrator(s) or Executor(s)
After this process, the interest in the HDB flat can then be transferred to the beneficiaries as owners. Note that the eligibility criteria to retain the flat includes Singapore Citizenship or Permanent Residence and at least 21 years of age.
Relevance of Wills
As wills inherently deal with property, they are relevant to the outcome of the HDB flat in the event of death. In Singapore, the Intestate Succession Act mandates that in the event of death of a non-Muslim sole owner who has not left behind a will, the priority of distribution is:
- Spouse, children
- Aunts and uncles
A simple breakdown of the rules are as follows:
- Where there is a surviving spouse but no children and no surviving parents, the spouse shall be entitled to the whole of the interest in the flat.
- However, where there is a surviving spouse and children, the spouse will be entitled to half of the interest in the flat, and the other half to be shared equally among the children.
- Where the deceased has only left behind children (no surviving spouse or parents), the children will be entitled to the interest in the flat in equal proportions.
- In the event that a child has also passed away, grandchildren can claim their parents’ portion of the estate.
- Where there is a surviving spouse and surviving parents, the spouse will be entitled to half of the interest in the flat, and the other half to be shared equally among the parents.
- The remaining rules follow according to the priority as listed. In the event that the deceased owner dies without leaving any family behind, the entire interest in the flat will go to the Government.
Note that these rules does not apply in a joint tenancy scheme, where the interest in the flat will be transferred to the other joint tenant.
As these rules must be complied with strictly by law, asset distribution may at times cause conflict among the surviving family members. To ensure that the distribution of assets goes according to your wishes, it is important to prepare a will stating your desired distribution of assets.
What Happens upon Inheritance of the HDB Flat?
Children who inherit the HDB flat from a deceased parent will have to take note of the eligibility criteria to retain the HDB flat which includes conditions pertaining to family nucleus and citizenship. In the event that the child is not eligible to retain the flat, the HDB may be sold in the open market, provided the minimum occupancy period has been met. If the minimum occupancy period has not been met, the child may approach HDB which will evaluate the case.
If the child already owns a private property prior to inheriting the HDB flat, the outcome is determined by the date the inherited property was purchased by its previous owner:
- If the flat is a non-subsidised HDB flat bought before 30 August 2010 by its previous owner, the child may retain ownership of both the private property an the flat.
- However, if the flat was bought on or after 30 August 2010 and the minimum occupancy period has not been met, only one of the properties can be retained.
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