Managing a Loved One’s Estate After Their Death in Singapore

Last updated on September 4, 2020

will with red seal and gavel in background

Did Your Loved One Make a Will?

If the deceased left behind a valid will, the will should normally specify a person to be appointed as the executor. The executor will carry out the instructions of the person who made the maker (i.e. the testator).

If the deceased died intestate i.e. without a will (including where you cannot find the will), you would have to apply to the court for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This is so that you can be appointed by the court as an administrator to administer the distribution of the deceased’s estate. This administrator will usually be a next-of-kin of the deceased.

Grant of Probate

To execute a will, an executor will need to tender the relevant documents, including a certified copy of the specific will, to the court, to apply for a Grant of Probate.

The Grant of Probate is a court order authorising an executor to administer the deceased’s estate in accordance to the instructions in the will.

If a person has written a will before passing away, the next step would be for the executor (i.e. the person appointed in the will to carry out the will’s instructions) to apply to court for a Grant of Probate. – With the Grant of Probate, the executor will be able to manage the deceased’s affairs according to the instructions in the will, e.g. distributing the deceased’s assets and paying off any debts. – If the deceased had not written a will, their next-of-kin will have to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration to manage the deceased’s affairs instead. However, the distribution of the deceased’s assets will follow intestacy laws, and may not be in line with what the deceased would have wanted. – Therefore for greater control over who will get what after you pass away, consider writing a will. Apart from hiring a lawyer, you can also use our new WillMaker service to make your will online. Link to WillMaker in our bio! #SingaporeLegalAdvice

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Renouncing the right to apply for the Grant of Probate

It is possible for a named executor to expressly renounce his right to execute the will, by taking the steps described in section 3 of the Probate and Administration Act. Namely:

“such renunciation may be made orally by the person renouncing or by his advocate and solicitor, on the hearing of any petition or probate action, or in writing signed by the person so renouncing and attested either by an advocate and solicitor or by any person before whom an affidavit may be sworn”.

Where to apply for the Grant of Probate

If the total value of the estate of the deceased person is below S$3 million, the application is made to the State Courts. If the total value of the estate of the deceased person exceeds S$3 million, the application has to be made to the High Court by yourself or with the assistance of a probate lawyer.

Where the estate has less than $50,000 in value, you can apply for the Public Trustee Office to act for you.

How to apply for the Grant of Probate

Because of the complexity involved in terms of necessary documentation, it is advisable for the layperson to engage a lawyer to facilitate the application process (or the Public Trustee’s Office, if possible).

After the needed documents are filed in court, they will be reviewed. If everything is in order, the Application for the Grant of Probate will be granted.

Extracting the Grant of Probate

After the estate duty matters have been settled, and all relevant documents have been filed, the executor may apply to extract the grant. This is done by way of a request to extract the Grant of Probate.

Before filing the request, the executor should conduct a search to ensure that there are no caveats in force against the estate.

Duties of the executor

The executor may be required to perform the following, depending on the contents of the will:

  1. Apply for probate;
  2. Extract the Grant of Probate;
  3. Make arrangements for the funeral of the deceased;
  4. Determine the total assets and liabilities of the deceased;
  5. Resolve the outstanding income tax liability of the deceased, according to section 58 of the Income Tax Act;
  6. Pursue any debts owed to the deceased;
  7. Resolve any debts or liabilities of the deceased. In the case of an insolvent estate, the order of priority in the repayment of debts can be found in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018, after the funeral, testamentary and administration expenses of the deceased have been paid. In the case of a solvent estate, the order of repayment can be found in the Second Schedule of the Probate and Administration Act;
  8. Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries or their respective guardians, in accordance to the will.

For a more detailed checklist to execute a will, read our other article.

You may also wish to download our free guide to will-making to find out who should be your executor:

Contentious Probate: Contesting a Will

A will can be contested by those who dispute its validity, and a court may declare it wholly or partially invalid. It is therefore important to ensure that the will complies with the provisions of the Wills Act. If a will is declared invalid, no will is left behind, and the deceased’s property may be distributed according to the rules of the Intestate Succession Act.

Any person who does not wish a grant to be issued to a particular executor or an administrator may file a caveat in court. The effect of the caveat is that the Registrar of the court is required to inform the person lodging the caveat, the caveator, in the event that an attempt is made to extract the grant of letters of representation.

Grounds to contest a will include specific allegations like the will not being properly executed, or that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of execution of the will and so forth. If the will is contested, the court will decide the matter in a probate proceeding.

Where There is No Will: Letters of Administration

Where a person passes away without leaving behind a will, the next of kin can make a court application for the Grant of Letters of Administration. These Letters of Administration serve as a court order authorising a person to be appointed as the administrator to administer the estate and distribute the assets in accordance to Singapore’s laws.

The administration process is primarily directed by the Probate and Administration Act and the Intestate Succession Act.

Who is the administrator?

Where no will is left behind, the court is empowered to appoint whoever it thinks ought to be granted the letters of administration. Such a grant can be made to any member of the classes of beneficiaries under the Intestate Succession Act.

The Act sets out 7 classes of persons who, in descending order of priority, are entitled to apply for a grant. They are:

  1. The spouse;
  2. The children of the deceased;
  3. The parents;
  4. Brothers and sisters;
  5. Nephews and nieces;
  6. Grandparents; and
  7. Uncles and aunts.

At least 2 administrators (or a trust corporation) must be appointed if one or more beneficiaries of the estate is below 21.

Bankrupts and infants cannot be appointed as administrators. Where a person entitled to a grant is an infant such a grant will be made to his guardian, or if he had attained the age of 16 years to any next of kin that the infant may nominate.

Renouncing the right to apply for Letters of Administration

A party with the priority in law to apply for Letters of Administration (for various reasons) may renounce his right to do so by filing a renunciation and consent form.

Do I Need a Probate Lawyer?

Due to the multitude of supporting documents needed in a court application for a grant, it is certainly advisable that you hire a probate lawyer to handle the paperwork.

Where the estate comprises property with fluctuating value (e.g. shares and real estate), it may be prudent to apply for letters of administration as soon as possible to take advantage of price differentials. Where there is no will, the administrator has to distribute the estate in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.

Estate Planning
  1. Fiduciaries and Fiduciary Law in Singapore
  2. Muslim Inheritance Law in Singapore
  3. What Happens to Your Debts When You Die?
  4. How to Donate your Assets to Charity
  5. Organ Donation in Singapore (under HOTA, or For Science)
  6. Can I Use My Will to Distribute Insurance Proceeds?
  7. 8 Tools You Must Know for Estate Planning in Singapore
  8. Who Pays for the Mortgage Debts and Medical Bills After Death?
  9. Complete Guide to CPF Nominations and How to Make One in Singapore
  10. Is Inheritance Tax Payable When You Die in Singapore?
  11. Missing Persons Singapore: Legal Steps to Find and 'Presumed Dead'
  12. Is Stamp Duty Payable When Inheriting Property in Singapore?
Making a Will
  1. How Do I Make a Will?
  2. Choosing an Executor for Your Will in Singapore
  3. Get An Affordable Will Made By Experienced Lawyers
  4. Where Should You Store Your Will?
  5. Why Should You Make a Will?
  6. What is a Mutual Will, Mirror Will and Joint Will?
  7. How Can I Change My Will?
  8. Checklist for Drafting a Comprehensive Will in Singapore
  9. Appointing a Guardian for Your Children in Your Will in Singapore
  10. The Complete Guide to Making Your Will in Singapore
  11. How to Prepare a Schedule of Assets for Your Will in Singapore
Preparing for Incapacity
  1. How to Plan for Mental Incapacitation
  2. What is a Lasting Power of Attorney and How to Make One in Singapore
  3. Advance Medical Directives in Singapore
  4. Appointment of Deputies under the Mental Capacity Act
  5. Revocation of a Lasting Power of Attorney
  6. How to Appoint a Deputy for Mentally Incapacitated Persons in Singapore
  7. Advance Care Planning in Singapore: Why and How to Get Started
  8. Mental Capacity Assessment for LPAs and Wills
Setting Up a Trust
  1. What is a Trust? Trust Law in Singapore
  2. Setting Up a Discretionary Living Trust in Singapore
  3. Trust Protectors: Who are They & How to Appoint One in Singapore
Distribution of Estate Assets
  1. An Executor’s Checklist to Executing a Will in Singapore
  2. What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Singapore?
  3. How Do I Contest a Will?
  4. Managing a Loved One's Estate After Their Death in Singapore
  5. Applying for Letters of Administration: Singapore's Intestacy Laws
  6. Unfair Maintenance: What Can Singapore's Law Do for You?
  7. Applying for a Grant of Probate in Singapore
  8. Can a half-brother be considered a next of kin? (when distributing the assets of the deceased)
  9. What happens to property when a deceased’s next-of-kin or named personal representative is uncontactable?
  10. Obtaining a Fresh Grant of Probate and Resealing a Foreign Grant of Probate
  11. What happens to residuary property not accounted for?
  12. What happens to a Singapore expatriate's assets when he passes on?
  13. How to Access the Bank Account of a Deceased Spouse
  14. How to Give Away Overseas Assets in a Will in Singapore
  15. What Happens to the HDB Flat When One Owner Passes Away?
  16. Simultaneous Death: How are Assets Distributed When Family Members Die at the Same Time?
  17. What to Do If the Will Cannot be Found
  18. Dispute with Executor of Will in Singapore: What to Do
  19. What If a Beneficiary Dies Before Receiving His Inheritance?
  20. What Happens to the Car When the Owner Passes Away?
  21. How Can Your Minor Beneficiaries Receive Their Inheritance?
  22. Comprehensive Guide to Probate Fees in Singapore