Unfair Maintenance: What Can Singapore’s Law Do for You?

Last updated on April 18, 2018

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When a person passes away, his property is distributed in accordance to his will. And in the absence of a will, the Intestate Succession Act prescribes the rules of distribution.

In some situations however, the will or intestacy laws may fail to adequately provide for the welfare of the deceased’s dependants. The Inheritance (Family Provision) Act (the “Act”) is designed to remedy these situations, subject to its non-application to the estates of deceased Muslims.

Who May Apply for Maintenance?

A dependant who is not reasonably provided for by the distribution of a deceased’s estate may apply to the court requesting the court to make an order altering the distribution of the deceased’s net estate for the maintenance of that dependant.

Four classes of persons who are counted as dependants:

  1. a wife or husband;
  2. a daughter who has not been married or who is, by reason of some mental or physical disability, incapable of maintaining herself;
  3. an infant son; or
  4. a son who is, by reason of some mental or physical disability, incapable of maintaining himself.

Illegitimate Children

In 2009, the Singapore Court of Appeal held that illegitimate children could not apply for maintenance under the Act. Only legitimate children (which includes legally-adopted children) could do so under the Act.

Time Within which Application Must be Made

An application for maintenance under the Act must generally be made within 6 months from the date on which representation (i.e. administration and execution) in regard to the deceased’s estate is first taken out, but this deadline may be extended by the court in just circumstances.

Where Application for Maintenance is Not Permitted

The Act prohibits an application in a situation where the distribution of the deceased estate, by way of will or law, is such that the surviving spouse is already entitled to not less than two-thirds of the income of the net estate and where the only other dependant or dependants, if any, is or are a child or children of the surviving spouse.

Matters Affecting the Court’s Decision

In deciding whether to make the maintenance order, the court will take into consideration a wide variety of matters, including:

  1. The dependant’s financial situation;
  2. The conduct of the dependant in relation to the deceased or in general; and
  3. Any reasons the deceased may have in making or not making a will, including the state of relations between the deceased and the dependant.

How Maintenance is Paid Out of the Deceased’s Estate

If the deceased’s estate consist of movable or immovable property, maintenance may be paid out of the income of said property. Alternatively, the property may be ordered to be sold to fund the maintenance.

Provision for maintenance is generally in the form of periodical payments, but these payments will be terminated in the following events:

  1. in the case of a wife or husband, her or his remarriage;
  2. in the case of a daughter who has not been married, or who is under disability, her marriage or the cesser of her disability, whichever is the later;
  3. in the case of an infant son, his attaining the age of 21 years;
  4. in the case of a son under disability, the cesser of his disability,

or in any case, his or her earlier death.

But where the value of a deceased’s net estate does not exceed S$50,000, the court shall have power to make a maintenance order in the form of a lump sum payment.

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