Singapore Probate Lawyers: Why Hire One? What Can They Do for You?
When a loved one passes away, their family members would have to handle probate matters.
For those who are not well-versed in the laws of probate and administration, it can be difficult and emotionally taxing to handle probate matters without the aid of a lawyer.
Here, matters regarding probate are discussed so that you can consider whether or not hiring a probate lawyer will be beneficial for you.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
1. Apply for a Grant of Letter of Representation on your behalf
A probate lawyer mainly handles the application for a Grant of Letter of Representation to be issued by the court. This includes filing of relevant documents such as the Originating Summons and supporting affidavit, to extract the grant.
A Grant of Letter of Representation gives the grantee (i.e. the applicant to whom the Letter of Representation is granted to) power to administer the estate of the deceased and distribute it according to the Intestate Succession Act or the deceased’s will, if any.
Without a Grant, the estate of the deceased vests in the Public Trustee who will then distribute it if no one steps forward to administer the deceased’s estate.
A Grant of Letter of Representation exists in 3 forms:
- A Grant of Probate: this is the grant that will be issued by the court if the deceased has a valid will and the named executor(s) step forward to administer the estate.
- A Grant of Letter of Administration: this is the grant that will be issued by the court if the deceased does not have a valid will and their estate will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act.
- A Grant of Letter of Administration with Will annexed: this is the grant that will be issued by the court if the deceased has a valid will, but none of the named executors in the will are willing to or are able to step forward to administer the estate (e.g. due to reasons of death or legal incapability).
A probate lawyer would be able to help you get your Grant of Letter of Representation issued in a timely manner. This is important because if the application for the Grant has not been made or proceeded with, after 6 months from the death of the deceased, the Letter of Representation will be granted to the Public Trustee for distribution instead.
This means that if you are appointed by the deceased as the executor of the will or if you wish to be appointed as administrator of the deceased’s estate, it would be difficult for you to recover ownership of the administration process.
2. Assist in any contentious matter
Hiring a probate lawyer would be advisable as well if there is the potential for the probate proceedings to turn contentious. Matters may turn contentious where there are disputes over probate.
For example, where the validity of a will is contested or where a beneficiary suspects the executor is not following the will and wishes to commence proceedings against him. A lawyer would be able to advise you on the legal consequences of such matters and the possible actions to take.
Other than applying for a Grant of Letter of Representation, a probate lawyer also assists with the following:
- Locating and securing all the assets of the deceased
- Obtaining date of death values and appraisals of all of the deceased’s property
- Preparing and filing all documents required by the probate court in a timely manner
- Collecting life insurance proceeds
- Advising on the payment of the deceased’s outstanding debts
- Settling disputes among personal representatives and beneficiaries
- Assisting with the sale of estate property
- Conducting mandatory searches such as enquiring whether other Letters of Representation or caveats have been made
Can I Choose Not to Hire a Probate Lawyer?
You may choose to not hire a probate lawyer and apply for a Grant of Letter of Representation yourself. This is especially in cases where the value of the estate may be disproportionate to the cost of hiring a probate lawyer (i.e. the probate lawyer’s fees may be equal or higher than the value of the estate).
The procedure for probate may be found in the Probate and Administration Act, Family Justice Rules (Part 14) and the Family Justice Courts Practice Directions (Part XII). All applications must be done through the eLitigation electronic filing system and the applicant must have a Singapore address.
For more information, you may also wish to refer to our article to learn more about the procedure for applying for a Grant of Probate.
Nevertheless, if you are not well-versed in the legal procedures of probate or may be involved in potential probate disputes (as discussed above), hiring a probate lawyer may be ideal in such situations.
How Much Do Probate Lawyers Charge?
Generally, all lawyers would have to charge a fair sum for legal work. What would be considered “fair” would depend on all circumstances such as the nature of the work, the time spent on the work and the standing of the lawyer concerned.
The fees may be charged either on an hourly-basis or on a fixed-basis.
Charging on an hourly basis would mean that the lawyer would charge for his time spent on completing the probate work. For example, if the lawyer spends 5 hours on the probate matter and his hourly rates are $200/hour, he would charge you $1,000 for the total sum of work done.
Charging on a fixed-fee basis would mean that the probate lawyer is charging for the probate matter itself and would quote a fixed price for the work to be done. For example, the lawyer may charge a fixed-fee package for the application of a Grant of Probate at a sum of $1,000.
There is no answer as to which form of charging is preferable for probate matters, but always ensure that you do your research and comparisons across different law firms so that you find one that matches your needs.
In particular, take note that the following factors would generally increase the fees of probate lawyers:
- The estate has complex arrangements, such as assets being held in a trust. More time would be required to prepare the Schedule of Assets and Liabilities as the lawyer would have to undertake a greater volume of specialised searches and legal action before extracting the Grant of Letter of Representation.
- The deceased did not leave behind a will. Without a will, the procedure for applying for a Grant of Administration is more complicated as additional documents need to be filed.
- The probate matter is potentially or becomes contentious. This would take up more of the lawyer’s time if the matter goes to trial and he needs to, for example, represent the executor involved in the dispute.
- The executor or administrator is unsure about the assets or liabilities of the deceased. The lawyer would have to write to various institutions such as banks which may require a fee before releasing such information.
- The estate includes foreign property or foreign assets. Similarly, the lawyer would have to write to overseas institutions which may require a fee before releasing such information.
For more information, you may wish to refer to our article on how much it costs to hire a probate lawyer in Singapore.
How to Find a Suitable Probate Lawyer
Finding a probate lawyer that matches your needs involves some research on your part.
First, you may ask for recommendations from anyone within your social groups. You may also visit the Law Society of Singapore or the Ministry of Law to find out which law firms provide probate and administration services.
Upon which, you may to narrow down the list of probate lawyers. Think about your needs and make a phone call to their office to make a preliminary inquiry. Your considerations may include:
- Legal fees and pricing that the lawyer charges for his or her work.
- Whether the lawyer has experience in probate matters.
- Whether your matter is urgent and if the lawyer can accommodate your probate matter.
For example, our platform offers a Call a Lawyer service that allows you to have a 20-minute phone consultation with an experienced lawyer.
Alternatively, you may also make an appointment for a meeting to better understand whether he or she will be able to assist you in your matter. It is always best to prepare a list of questions for the lawyer. Your list of questions would be unique to you based on what kind of service you require.
You may also easily contact up to 5 probate lawyers of your choice on our platform and obtain quotes from these lawyers.
For more information, please refer to our article on how to choose a probate lawyer after a loved one has passed away.
Ultimately, whether or not you should hire a probate lawyer is a decision that lies upon you. As the procedure for obtaining a Grant of Representation can be complicated, it is advised that individuals who have no knowledge of probate matters, or are facing a potentially contentious probate matter, should consider hiring a probate lawyer.
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