What happens to property when a deceased’s next-of-kin or named personal representative is uncontactable?

Last updated on October 10, 2016

There are specific people that have priority when it comes to being a personal representative of the deceased. When a will has been written and it names a specific person to be personal representative, then this person will have priority when applying for a Grant of Probate. If there is no will or no named personal representative however, the closest living next-of-kin has priority when applying for Letters of Administration.

There are special rules that outline the process of applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, including which next of kin has priority. In all cases, if the person with priority is uncontactable, then this causes difficulties in the will being executed.

Order of Priority

The following order of priority applies:

  1. The beneficiary of the deceased’s residuary property;
  2. If the above is deceased, their legal or personal representative;
  3. Beneficiaries under the will that are the closest next-of-kin;
  4. Any beneficiary;
  5. Any creditor of the deceased; or
  6. An authorised attorney of a named personal representative (if one is named), limited by the extent of their authority.

Constructive Renunciation of Rights

In order to avoid these difficulties, an application may be made in court to prove “constructive renunciation” of the rights of the person who has priority.

Procedure of the application

The initial application that must be made is a Citation that must be served on the Defendant (the person who has priority and is uncontactable). This calls on the Defendant to enter an appearance and an application of a Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration by a certain date. If there is no appearance entered by the Defendant, then they have constructively renounced their right to be the personal representative.

Consider all of the circumstances

This application is not as straightforward as it seems, it is a matter of construing the circumstances as a whole. For example, if the Defendant is uncontactable but has otherwise expressed an intention to be the personal representative, then the Defendant’s non-appearance at the Citation would not, in and of itself, cause renunciation of their rights. Their intention may be expressed by intermeddling with the deceased’s affairs as if they were a personal representative. This is especially so where the Defendant responds out of time and prior to the Plaintiff filing for Letters of Administration.

In any case, the Defendant may be allowed to withdraw the renunciation, if it is for the benefit of the estate or those interested under the will or intestacy. The circumstances must be considered as a whole before making an application of this nature.

What happens if there is no named personal representative or if a named personal representative does not appear?

When the above situation occurs, and no other successful application is made by another party, then Letters of Administration will be granted to the person or persons that the court considers the fittest to administer the estate.

What Happens If No Next-of-Kin Make an Application for Letters of Administration?

In the above situation, the court may grant Letters of Administration to a creditor of the deceased. If no creditor wishes to apply, then the court may simply grant Letters of Administration to whomever the court thinks fit for the purpose.

It is important to note that in cases of intestacy, these laws are overridden by laws that apply to a specific religion or race – for example, the inheritance laws that apply to Muslims

Estate Planning
  1. 8 Tools You Must Know for Estate Planning in Singapore
  2. Guide to CPF Nominations & How to Make One In Singapore
  3. What Happens to Your Debts When You Die?
  4. Who Pays for the Mortgage Debts and Medical Bills After Death?
  5. Is Inheritance Tax Payable When You Die in Singapore?
  6. Is Stamp Duty Payable When Inheriting Property in Singapore?
  7. How to Donate your Assets to Charity
  8. Organ Donation in Singapore (under HOTA, or For Science)
  9. Finding Missing Persons in Singapore (or ‘Presumed Dead’)
Making a Will
  1. How Do I Make a Will?
  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. How to Plan for Mental Incapacitation
  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. What is a Trust? Trust Law in Singapore
  2. Fiduciaries and Fiduciary Law in Singapore
  3. Setting Up a Discretionary Living Trust in Singapore
  4. Trust Protectors: Who are They & How to Appoint One in Singapore
Grant of Probate and Grant of Letters of Administration
  1. Can the Public Trustee Administer Your Loved One's Estate?
  2. Managing a Loved One's Estate After Their Death in Singapore
  3. Applying for a Grant of Probate in Singapore
  4. Intestacy: Applying for Letters of Administration in Singapore
  5. Obtaining a Fresh Grant of Probate and Resealing a Foreign Grant of Probate
  6. Comprehensive Guide to Probate Fees in Singapore
Distribution of Estate Assets
  1. Dispute with Executor of Will in Singapore: What to Do
  2. What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Singapore?
  3. An Executor’s Checklist to Executing a Will in Singapore
  4. What to Do If the Will Cannot be Found
  5. How Do I Contest a Will?
  6. What Happens to the HDB Flat When One Owner Dies?
  7. How to Access the Bank Account of a Deceased Spouse
  8. What Happens to the Car When the Owner Passes Away?
  9. Simultaneous Death: How are Assets Distributed When Family Members Die at the Same Time?
  10. Can a half-brother be considered a next of kin? (when distributing the assets of the deceased)
  11. What happens to property when a deceased’s next-of-kin or named personal representative is uncontactable?
  12. What happens to residuary property not accounted for?
  13. What happens to a Singapore expatriate's assets when he passes on?
  14. What If a Beneficiary Dies Before Receiving His Inheritance?
  15. How Can Your Minor Beneficiaries Receive Their Inheritance?
  16. Unfair Maintenance: What Can Singapore's Law Do for You?
Muslim Inheritance Law
  1. Muslim Inheritance Law in Singapore