What happens to residuary property not accounted for?

Last updated on December 19, 2016

Residuary property is property owned by the deceased that has not been specifically provided for in a will, or is otherwise not effectively transferred to an intended beneficiary under a will. Possible causes for residuary property include the following:

  1. There is a mistake in the will;
  2. The beneficiary to the relevant property may have passed away during the deceased’s lifetime or prior to the transfer of the property;
  3. The distribution of property under a will may be contrary to law or invalid for any reason; or
  4. The deceased acquired property after the will was written.

There are a few ways that residuary property can be dealt with. Of first and foremost importance is what is written in the will.

Residuary clause in the will

It is common to see a residuary clause that deals with property not specifically mentioned. This is a “catch all” clause that names the beneficiaries or tells the executor or administrator the way in which he/she needs to dispose of the property. This clause can also be known as a residuary devise when it concerns real estate.

No residuary clause in the will

If there is no residuary clause, then the Intestate Succession Act applies to the residuary property. The Act contains rules to distribute the residual property as if the will is absent. This depends on 2 factors:

  1. Whether the property is movable or immovable. Movable property includes cars, securities, jewellery etc. Immovable property generally refers to real estate.
  2. Which country the deceased is domiciled in at the time of his passing (in other words, the country which the deceased treats as home);

The distribution of the movable property is regulated by the law of the country in which the person deceased was domiciled at the time of his death.

On the other hand, the distribution of the immovable property that the Singapore court has jurisdiction over is regulated by the Intestate Succession Act wherever the deceased may have been domiciled at the time of his death.

It is also important to note that the Act does not apply to Muslims. In this case, the Muslim law and the decisions of the Syariah Court will apply.

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