All About Probate & Administration (Singapore Edition)
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
What happens after a loved one dies?
Apart from getting a death certificate and planning for a funeral, the other important thing you should do is to go through the probate or administration process and get a ‘Grant’ from the court in order to have the official right to manage your loved one’s money, property, and other assets.
(Note: For Muslims, Muslim (Islamic) law will apply instead. Read How Does Muslim Inheritance Work in Singapore? for more information.)
What is Probate and Administration?
Probate and administration is the legal process where the executor (person appointed in a will) applies for a Grant of Probate or administrator (person appointed by the court) applies for a Grant of Letters of Administration. Both are legal documents issued by the court for the executor or administrator to have the legal power to manage and distribute the deceased’s estate.
The application usually takes around 2-3 months, but depending on complexity, it may take longer.
What is the Difference Between Grant of Probate & Grant of Letters of Administration?
When you have a will, your appointed person (the executor) will apply for a Grant of Probate.
Without a will, if the will can’t be found or if there is no executor because, for example:
No executor is appointed in the will
Executors appointed are incapable of carrying out instructions in the will
Executor doesn’t want to be an executor
Executors are dead
The court will choose one or more person(s) (called administrator(s)) most suitable to manage the deceased’s assets, and Letters of Administration will be granted instead.
You can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration if you are:
A beneficiary (person entitled to a share of the estate)
At least 21 years old
Have a sound mind (doesn’t lack mental capacity)
What if No Next-Of-Kin Applies for the Grant of Letters of Administration?
When no next-of-kin applies, the Court may appoint whomever they think is suitable, which may include a creditor of the deceased.
What are the Duties of the Executor & Administrator?
The duties of an executor or administrator is to apply for the grant, clear the deceased’s debts and distribute the assets either according to the will, or in the absence of a will, based on the intestacy law.
As an executor or administrator, you may want to consider opening a separate bank account to manage the monies of the deceased estates to avoid mixing your money with the deceased’s money. It helps you keep proper records so that when the beneficiaries ask for a detailed accounting (which they are allowed to), there won’t be unnecessary disputes. Disputes can result in law suits, which will cost you time, money and emotional stress.
How Many Executors Can You Appoint in Your Will?
Usually, a maximum of 4 executors are appointed.
Note: Section 6(1) of the Probate and Administration Act says "Probate or letters of administration shall not be granted to more than 4 persons in respect of the same property."
The probate process is tedious. Having more executors means more help and keeping each other in check, but that also means potential for more disagreements because usually, they all have to agree before matters can proceed. Generally, it's ideal to have 1-2 main executors with the potential for substitute executors in case the main executors can't fulfill their duties for any reason.
How to Get a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?
Before starting the process, you might want to first consider the following:
1. Is there a need to get a grant?
Some assets such as Central Provident Fund (“CPF”) monies, insurance with nominations, jointly owned properties (eg. joint tenancy flats, joint bank accounts, etc.) do not need a Grant to be distributed.
2. What is the value of the deceased asset?
Less than $50,000
You can consider applying to the Public Trustee to administer the estate. If the Public Trustee agrees to administer the estate, a Grant is not needed, and thus, you don’t have to go through administration.
Please note that there are a list of circumstances where the Public Trustee cannot help administer the estate. Check here for more information.
$5 million and below
You will file to the Family Justice Court.
*Note: If the estate value is above SG$3 million, higher filing fees will apply.
Above $5 million
You will file to the Family Division of the High Court.
3. Is it better to engage a lawyer?
People often underestimate the difficulties of applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. Lawyers specializing in wills and probate can advise you on the dos and don’ts to avoid disputes, help you when problem arises, and potentially reduce extra costs arising from mistakes.
Based on Immortalize's data, the cost to hire a lawyer to get a Grant starts from ~SG$1,500. The actual cost will depend on factors such as the size of the estate and how complicated is the estate and probate/administration process.
Tip: Compare pricing and find the lawyer best suited for your probate and administration needs at Immortalize Legacy Planning Marketplace.
If you do decide to do it yourself, the Family Justice Court (“FJC”) has a comprehensive probate toolkit to guide you through the process. Note that the toolkit is only suitable for straightforward cases where, for example, the deceased was domiciled in Singapore or the value of the estate is less than $5 million.
Here’s an overview! Bon Voyage!
Overview of Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration
Step 1: Prepare documents and forms for submission
Below are some of the requirements. For a full list, please refer to the FJC website.
Service Bureau Form for application for Probate/Letters of Administration (get the form here).
Schedule of Assets - a list of all assets and liabilities of the deceased.
Assets can include bank accounts, properties, shares in companies, foreign assets, and etc. All taxes, debts, bills and other expenses such as funeral costs must be paid before you can distribute the balance of the deceased’s estate.
Certified copy of death certificate(s)
Death certificate of the deceased. You may also need the death certificates of executors or next-of-kin who have passed away.
Certified copy of the will (if there is one)
Renunciation of executors or beneficiaries (if there is any)
Summary report of caveat and probate application search
This is to make sure no one else is preventing you from getting a grant of probate or letters of administration by lodging a caveat against the deceased’s estate or having any pending application relating to the deceased’s estate.
Step 2: Filing of Application
Applications for Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration have to be filed through the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau.
What Happens After Filing?
If the Court rejects the documents due to errors in application, you have to correct the errors and re-file documents.
If all is good, the Court will assign a probate number to the application and fix a hearing date.
Step 3: Prepare and File Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath
Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath needs to be filed within 14 days after the initial application is accepted. In short, this is to confirm that all the documents you submitted are declared true and correct, and that you will administer the deceased’s estate dutifully.
Step 4: Extracting the Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration
You may file a request to extract the Grant after the Court has accepted your Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath
Conduct a final caveat and probate application search
Grants are issued electronically but you may request to get a physical grant issued with a court seal.
After you received the Grant, you can now take it to relevant financial institutions (eg. banks, insurance companies) and other institutions (eg. the Housing & Development Board ("HDB")) to release and distribute the deceased’s assets.
Having a will can potentially shorten the probate process as getting a Grant of
Probate is generally faster, easier and cheaper than getting a Grant of Letters of Administration.
As the saying goes ‘Good beginning is half the battle won’. Find a professional at Immortalize Marketplace to help you with your estate plan or get a Grant now.
Find a professional, compare prices, and kickstart your estate planning
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or site should be construed as providing legal advice or advice of any sort. The information provided are general in nature and may become inaccurate over time. Please consult a professional for advice.
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