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

Last updated on January 3, 2024

Featured image for the "Unfair Maintenance: What Can Singapore's Law Do for You?" article. It features a house and money in the dark.

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 (IFPA) 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 IFPA. Only legitimate children (which includes legally-adopted children) could do so under the IFPA.

Time Within which Application Must be Made

An application for maintenance under the IFPA 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 IFPA 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;
  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;
  4. The nature of the property representing the deceased’s net estate; and
  5. Any other matter the court may consider relevant or material in relation to 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.

Estate Planning
  1. Plan Intergenerational Wealth With a Singapore Family Office
  2. Estate Planning for Digital Assets (NFTs, Social Media, Etc.)
  3. 8 Tools You Must Know for Estate Planning in Singapore
  4. Guide to CPF Nominations & How to Make One In Singapore
  5. What Happens to Your Debts When You Die?
  6. Who Pays for the Mortgage Debts and Medical Bills After Death?
  7. Is Inheritance Tax Payable When You Die in Singapore?
  8. Is Stamp Duty Payable When Inheriting Property in Singapore?
  9. How to Donate your Assets to Charity
  10. Organ Donation in Singapore (under HOTA, or For Science)
  11. Finding Missing Persons in Singapore (or ‘Presumed Dead’)
Making a Will
  1. Making a Will in Singapore: What are the Formalities Involved? (2023)
  2. The Complete Guide to Making Your Will in Singapore
  3. Why Should You Make a Will?
  4. Checklist for Drafting a Comprehensive Will in Singapore
  5. Get An Affordable Will Made By Experienced Lawyers
  6. Choosing an Executor for Your Will in Singapore
  7. How to Prepare a Schedule of Assets for Your Will in Singapore
  8. Appointing a Guardian for Your Children in Your Will in Singapore
  9. What is a Mutual Will, Mirror Will and Joint Will?
  10. How to Give Away Overseas Assets in a Will in Singapore
  11. Can I Use My Will to Distribute Insurance Proceeds?
  12. Where Should You Store Your Will?
  13. How Can I Change My Will?
Preparing for Incapacity
  1. Mental Incapacity in Singapore: A Guide
  2. Mental Capacity Assessment for LPAs and Wills
  3. Appointment of Deputies under the Mental Capacity Act
  4. How to Appoint a Deputy for Mentally Incapacitated Persons in Singapore
  5. Advance Medical Directives in Singapore
  6. Making a Lasting Power of Attorney in Singapore
  7. Revocation of a Lasting Power of Attorney
  8. Advance Care Planning in Singapore: Why and How to Get Started
Setting Up a Trust
  1. Creating Pet Trusts in Singapore: Are They Legally Recognised?
  2. What is a Trust? Trust Law in Singapore
  3. Fiduciaries and Fiduciary Law in Singapore
  4. Setting Up a Discretionary Living Trust in Singapore
  5. Trust Protectors: Who are They & How to Appoint One in Singapore
Grant of Probate and Grant of Letters of Administration
  1. No Executor For Your Loved One's Will: What to Do
  2. What is Probate? Is It Needed If Your Loved One Passes Away?
  3. Can the Public Trustee Administer Your Loved One's Estate?
  4. How to Get a Copy of a Deceased's Will in Singapore
  5. Managing a Loved One's Estate After Their Death in Singapore
  6. Applying for a Grant of Probate in Singapore
  7. Intestacy: Applying for Letters of Administration in Singapore
  8. Obtaining a Fresh Grant of Probate and Resealing a Foreign Grant of Probate
  9. Comprehensive Guide to Probate Fees in Singapore
Distribution of Estate Assets
  1. Who Gets the Joint Bank Account Monies if One Owner Dies?
  2. Bona Vacantia: Dying With No Will or Relatives in Singapore
  3. Dispute with Executor of Will in Singapore: What to Do
  4. What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Singapore?
  5. An Executor’s Checklist to Executing a Will in Singapore
  6. What to Do If the Will Cannot be Found
  7. How to Contest a Will in Singapore (Grounds and Procedure)
  8. What Happens to the HDB Flat When One Owner Dies?
  9. How to Access the Bank Account of a Deceased Spouse
  10. What Happens to the Car When the Owner Passes Away?
  11. Simultaneous Death: How are Assets Distributed When Family Members Die at the Same Time?
  12. Can a half-brother be considered a next of kin? (when distributing the assets of the deceased)
  13. What happens to property when a deceased’s next-of-kin or named personal representative is uncontactable?
  14. What happens to property not accounted for in a will?
  15. What happens to a Singapore expatriate's assets when he passes on?
  16. What if a Child or Beneficiary Dies Before the Willmaker?
  17. How Can Your Minor Beneficiaries Receive Their Inheritance?
  18. Unfair Maintenance: What Can Singapore's Law Do for You?
Muslim Inheritance Law
  1. Using Hibah for Muslim Estate Planning in Singapore
  2. Can Muslims Make Nuzriah (or Nazar) in Singapore and How?
  3. Muslim Probate: Guide to Inheritance Certificates in Singapore
  4. Muslim Inheritance Law in Singapore