Muslim Probate: Guide to Inheritance Certificates in Singapore
Often, after the demise of a loved one, the family has to deal with matters relating to the administration of their loved one’s estate. In Singapore, the laws relating to the administration of a deceased’s estate apply differently to Muslims and non-Muslims.
For non-Muslims, the manner in which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to his beneficiaries is dependent on whether a will was executed. If a will was executed before the person passed away, the person’s assets will be distributed according to the terms of the will. However, if no will was executed, then the assets will be administered according to certain rules in the Intestate Succession Act.
As for Muslims domiciled in Singapore, their estates will be administered according to the rules set out in the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA). The administration will be overseen by the Syariah Court in Singapore.
One of the first few steps of administering a Muslim person’s estate would be to apply for an Inheritance Certificate. This article will explain in detail the process of applying for one. It will discuss:
- What is an Inheritance Certificate
- Who can apply for an Inheritance Certificate in Singapore
- How to apply for an Inheritance Certificate in Singapore
- How to apply for probate using the Inheritance Certificate
- How to obtain an extract copy of the Inheritance Certificate
- What happens if someone disputes the contents of the Inheritance Certificate/the proportions of asset distribution in general
What is an Inheritance Certificate?
An Inheritance Certificate is a document issued by the Syariah Court in Singapore that identifies the beneficiaries who are legally entitled to the deceased’s estate. It also facilitates the proper distribution of the deceased’s estate by listing each beneficiary’s share of the estate according to Muslim law.
Applying for an Inheritance Certificate is necessary as part of the administration of an estate under the Muslim inheritance law (as elaborated upon below). Muslim inheritance law, or faraid, is applicable to all Muslims who have been domiciled in Singapore and who have passed away after 1 July 1968, excluding those who have renounced Islam.
Who can Apply For an Inheritance Certificate?
You may apply for an Inheritance Certificate if you are:
- A Muslim beneficiary above 21 years of age at the time of application. Beneficiaries of the estate usually include people related by blood to the deceased person, (e.g. spouse, son, daughter). You can check whether you are entitled to a deceased’s estate by referring to page 11 of this guide to Muslim inheritance law.
- A law firm applying on behalf of a beneficiary.
- The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), on behalf of Baitulmal (an institution that acts as a trustee for Muslims and administered by MUIS). This is applicable if, for instance, a person dies leaving behind no beneficiaries and his estate goes to Baitulmal.
- The court or any authority that is obligated to determine the beneficiaries entitled to the estate of the deceased and the respective proportions they are to receive.
How to Apply For an Inheritance Certificate in Singapore
The main steps for applying for an Inheritance Certificate are:
- Submitting the main application
- Making a Statutory Declaration
- Making payment for the application
Once you have completed the first step of submitting the main application, you have to complete the other two steps within 30 days of submission. Otherwise, your application will expire and you will have to re-submit it if you still need it.
Submitting the main application
You may apply for an Inheritance Certificate online via the Syariah Court of Singapore website. Upon entering the website, click on “Login to SYC Portal” located at the top right-hand corner of the website and log into the portal using your SingPass account.
Once you have successfully logged in to the portal, you will be directed to your Dashboard. You will first have to click on the “Inheritance” tab on your Dashboard and then click on “Create New Application”.
Before you commence your application for an Inheritance Certificate, you will need to perform a search to see if any Inheritance Certificates have already been issued in relation to the deceased’s estate. To do so, fill in the deceased’s NRIC number or Inheritance Certificate Number and run a search.
If there are no prior records of Inheritance Certificates, click on “Apply for Inheritance Certificate” to start a fresh application.
The application will require you to provide particulars of the deceased such as their:
- Full name as it appears on the Death Certificate
- NRIC number
- Date of death
You will also have to upload a copy of the deceased’s Death Certificate as part of the application.
Next, you will have to fill in your particulars (applicant’s particulars). When doing so, you will be prompted to indicate your relationship with the deceased and to provide supporting documents to prove this relationship.
For instance, if it is your spouse who has passed on, then you, the applicant, will need to upload a copy of your marriage certificate as evidence of your marriage to the deceased.
In the final section, you will be asked to add potential beneficiaries, if applicable, and provide details such as their NRIC numbers.
After filling in the details of the potential beneficiaries, you will be asked to verify all the details you have provided in a “Preview Page” before submitting the application for approval.
Do take note that it is crucial for you to ensure that all the particulars relating to the deceased and the beneficiaries are correct. This is because any revisions to the Inheritance Certificate would require you to apply for a new one, and you would have to pay the application fees again (see below for the fee amount).
After submitting your application, you will be directed to the Inheritance Certificate Application submission screen, which will show you the following:
- The status of your application
- Your Case ID
- Submission date
- Your email address, to which a copy of your application will be sent
Your application will have to be preliminarily approved first, before you are required to submit a Statutory Declaration and make payment. This approval is likely to be done within 3 working days. Once it has been approved, you will receive a notification on your Dashboard to submit a Statutory Declaration and make payment for the Inheritance Certificate.
Making a Statutory Declaration
To make a Statutory Declaration, you have to first access the “What I need to do” section on your Dashboard. Thereafter, click on “Case ID” or the three dots under the Date column to select the “Edit” option.
You will be shown a section titled “Important Notes”, which contains a Word document template of the Statutory Declaration. You will have to download the Word document, fill it in and affirm it before a Commissioner for Oaths. Then, scan a copy of the affirmed Statutory Declaration and upload it to the SYC Portal.
Once your Statutory Declaration has been accepted, you may proceed to make payment for the application.
Making payment for the application
The application for an Inheritance Certificate costs $34 and the fee may be paid via PayNow, eNets or credit card. The payment must be made within 7 calendar days after you have received an approval email that contains a copy of your application, and at least a day before your application expires, whichever is earlier.
As mentioned above, Inheritance Certificate applications expire within 30 days of submission. If you do not make the payment within this timeframe, your application will be deemed expired and you will have to re-submit it.
After applying for the inheritance certificate
The Inheritance Certificate will be issued in a PDF format once your application has been approved, the Statutory Declaration has been verified and payment for the Inheritance Certificate has been made.
You will have 14 days to download the Inheritance Certificate, and you should do so as soon as possible. If you fail to download the Inheritance Certificate within 14 days, it will no longer be available for download and you will have to apply for an extract copy of the Inheritance Certificate (see below).
If your application has been flagged as “Returned as Incomplete”, it means that your application requires edits. The reasons for the rejection of the application would be stated under the “Remarks” column in your Dashboard.
You will then have to edit your application accordingly and resubmit the application by the stated date. If you fail to do so, your application will automatically expire and you will have to submit a new application for an Inheritance Certificate.
Administering Probate Using the Inheritance Certificate
As mentioned earlier, obtaining the Inheritance Certificate is the first step of the process of the administration of the deceased’s estate.
After obtaining the Inheritance Certificate, you would have to apply for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration from the Family Justice Courts. This is so that the court can appoint a representative who will be in charge of administering the deceased’s estate.
Whether you apply for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration depends on whether the deceased had made a will. If the deceased had made a will, you would apply for a Grant of Probate. The Grant of Probate will authorise the representative, also known as the executor, as appointed by the deceased in the will, to administer the estate according to what was instructed in the will.
However, if the deceased had not made a will, you would apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, which would authorise an administrator to distribute the deceased’s estate according to the Muslim inheritance law. The court has the discretion to grant the Grant of Letters of Administration to the deceased’s next-of-kin, or anyone who is entitled to a share in the deceased’s estate.
The final step in the administering of probate would be that of the distribution of the deceased’s assets to the rightful beneficiaries. This responsibility falls on the executor or the administrator, depending on the presence of a will. If there was a will, the executor must distribute the assets of the deceased according to what was stated in the will. This distribution is however subject to the rules of faraid.
For instance, the deceased is not allowed to will away more than one-third of his assets. The remaining two-thirds of the assets have to be distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries according to faraid. If the will contravenes this rule, any amount that has been willed away above this one-third will be invalid, unless all the beneficiaries provide a written consent that any additional amount can be willed away.
If there was no will, then the administrator has to distribute the assets according to faraid by default.
For more information, refer to our article on Muslim inheritance law in Singapore.
Requesting For an Extract Copy of the Inheritance Certificate
You may obtain an extract copy of the Inheritance Certificate only if an Inheritance Certificate had previously been issued. An extract copy is a duplicate copy of the Inheritance Certificate. You may apply for an extract copy of an Inheritance Certificate if you had failed to download the Inheritance Certificate when it was first issued by the deadline for doing so, or if you are unable to locate your copy of it.
The application may be submitted via the Syariah Court website. First, you would have to login to the SYC Portal using your SingPass. After logging in, you should perform a search for a previously issued Inheritance Certificate by filling in the deceased’s NRIC number or Inheritance Certificate Number.
If there is a record of the Inheritance Certificate that you are looking for, click on it. On the next page, you will be able to view details such as the deceased’s name and date of death to verify that you have the right Inheritance Certificate.
If the details are correct, click on the option “Apply for Extract of Inheritance Certificate” from the dropdown bar provided, and subsequently the option “Extract of Inheritance Certificate”. You will then have to fill in the reason for extraction and verify the deceased person’s and the beneficiaries’ details, before filling in your own details (applicant’s details). The final step would be to make the online payment of $34 via PayNow, eNETS or credit card.
The application for the extract copy will be processed within 3 working days of the submission of the application. Do note that the application for the extract copy will expire within 30 days from the date of the submission of the application. Therefore, you are advised to make your payment within 7 calendar days from the day your application is approved and at least a day before your application expires, whichever is earlier.
The extract copy of the Inheritance Certificate will be issued in a PDF format through the SYC Portal and must be downloaded within 14 days from the date of issuance.
What If Someone Disputes the Contents of the Inheritance Certificate/the Proportions of Asset Distribution in General?
Unfortunately, the Syariah Court will not be able to assist in resolving any disputes relating to the shares stated in the Inheritance Certificate. Hence, you are advised to approach a Muslim probate lawyer to address any concerns regarding the contents of the Inheritance Certificate or the asset distribution.
Applying for an Inheritance Certificate is one of the first steps to begin the process of administering a Muslim person’s estate. This will require you to make an online application via the SYC Portal, which involves fulfilling certain several steps, including the affirmation of a Statutory Declaration. You are strongly advised to consult a Muslim lawyer to help you apply for the Inheritance Certificate and to assist in the administration of your loved one’s estate.
A Muslim lawyer can help to keep track of the documents that you need to submit as part of your application and verify the particulars of the deceased and potential beneficiaries. This will minimise the chances of errors in the application and can save you the hassle of taking out another application and paying the application fee again.
Finally, considering that the Muslim probate process can be highly technical, a lawyer can help to go through with you the various stages of the process in a simplified manner and address any questions you may have.
You may get in touch with experienced Muslim probate lawyers here.
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