In a maturing society, estate and succession planning become increasingly important.
At Trident Law, we help organise the legal aspects of your wealth, investments, and assets through the preparation of a Will, inter-vivos gifts, and the creation of trusts on your assets.
Trident Law Corporation has been given:
A 5-star rating in the Criminal Law and Company and Commercial Law categories; and
A 4-star rating in Arbitration, Mediation, Dispute Resolution, Family and Mergers & Acquisitions categories.
We pride ourselves on adding value to each client’s experience of wills, estates and trusts in Singapore. We do this by doing our best to uphold our core values of tenacity, rigour and ingenuity. Our established reputation is built on an unflinching determination in going above and beyond for our clients.
UNDERSTANDING THAT DEATH IS A CERTAINTY OF LIFE
“When there is a Will, there is a way, and we will assist you in achieving the way you desire” – Trident Law Corporation
It is not just about making a Will; it is about making a Will that best achieves your intentions in providing for your loved ones.
The magic is in the structuring of the Will by doing scenario planning so that your wishes are translated into directives that remain in place when you are no longer able to articulate your wishes.
By leveraging on our experience in estate planning, we are dedicated to adding value by assessing risk areas that are relevant to your situation and personal needs and crafting bespoke solutions to cater to those needs. When there is a will, there is a way, and we will assist you in achieving the way you desire.
You may wish to consider preparing a Will, particularly if you have children or aged parents and/or grandparents. Preparing your Will can enable you to choose which of your assets can be given to each of your beneficiaries (named persons who stand to benefit from your Will), ensuring that your loved ones will be “okay” long after you are gone.
In spite of how useful a Will can be for you and your loved ones, reportedly only about 10-15% of Singaporeans are believed to have made Wills, though these figures could have already risen.
In Singapore, the estate of a Muslim is to be dispensed with in compliance with Islamic inheritance laws.
Considering the above, the contents of the information below are primarily for the benefit of Non-Muslim clients. We are looking into a separate write-up on Muslim Inheritance Laws, Estate Administration and Estate Planning for the benefit of our Muslim clients.
Lasting Power of Attorney / Appointment of Deputy
Life is full of uncertainties. No one can predict when they may lose their mental capacities and the ability to look after themselves.
It may be after a horrific accident, the side effect of a medical procedure, an untimely medical condition or simply due to old age. However, what you can do is to be prepared for such adversities, and we, at Trident Law, can assist you in making the necessary provisions to safeguard your interests.
By preparing a Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”), you nominate a person you trust to decide on your welfare and health, and to manage your property and affairs. If an LPA is not done, it will be necessary to apply to the Court for the Appointment of a Deputy, which will also serve the same purpose, but at a much higher (and needless) cost. In addition, there is always the tragic potential of such an application being contested by warring family members.
Probate and Non-Contentious Probate
We have significant experience in both contentious and non-contentious probate and letters of administration matters.
The death of a loved one is an arduous hurdle a family must overcome. The last thing a grieving family needs is to fret over the distribution of the assets of the bereaved. Here at Trident Law, we understand the pain such families go through, and offer practical solutions that assist the grieving family in obtaining the grant of probate or the letters of administration with the least amount of hassle.
Combining our experience and the belief that the court is not the best place for resolving sensitive probate disputes, Trident lawyers are able to advise you on your choices to achieve beneficial results.
Our dedicated team of private clients’ lawyers are well versed in assisting our clients to achieve the distribution of their assets in the manner they envision.
Working closely with financial institutions and trust organisations, our Trusts lawyers offer comprehensive succession structures that are customized for each client’s circumstances. Our collective experience gives us an edge in analysing the professional and personal goals of our clients and guiding them to a seamless transition of wealth between generations through testamentary dispositions.
LASTING POWER OF ATTORNEY/ APPOINTMENT OF DEPUTY
A Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”) is a document assigning another person (known as a “Donee”) to make decisions for you if you are to suffer from some mental disability such that you would not be in a position to make decisions for yourself.
You can put in place an LPA where you are 21 years of age or above, have the mental capacity to do so, and you are not an undischarged bankrupt. You may wish to select a Donee who you can rely on. Your Donee should be someone who is capable of sound judgement in the decisions that you have empowered her or him to make.
Life is full of uncertainties. No one can predict when they may lose their mental capacities and the ability to look after themselves.
It may be after a horrific accident, the side effect of a medical procedure, an untimely medical condition or simply due to old age. However, what you can do is to be prepared for such adversities, and we, at Trident Law Corporation, can assist you in making the necessary provisions to safeguard your interests.
By preparing an LPA, you nominate a person you trust to decide on your welfare and health, and to manage your property and affairs. If an LPA is not done, it will be necessary to apply to the Court for the Appointment of a Deputy, which will also serve the same purpose, but at a much higher (and needless) cost. In addition, there is always the tragic potential of such an application being contested by warring family members.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR ESTATE IN DEATH
When someone dies and has left assets and/or property behind, these are called “the Deceased person’s estate”. The estate is to be managed and dispensed with in compliance with the law.
Generally it is important that another person seek the Court’s approval or permission to manage those assets and/or property (i.e. the deceased person’s estate). Such proceedings are called “probate” matters under the Probate and Administration Act. When the proceedings are completed in Court, the Court will provide a document called a “Grant of Representation” that enables the person indicated in the Grant to manage the deceased person’s estate in compliance with the law.
If the person who died had prepared a Will, the Will would generally refer to the selection of an Executor indicated in the Grant of Representation is to manage the estate according to the deceased person’s instructions and wishes. The Executor would also have to apply for a Grant of Probate to be identified as the legitimate Executor of the deceased person’s estate.
If the person who died did not prepare a Will, the Court will select an Administrator to manage the deceased person’s estate. The Administrator will often be the legal partner or a next-of-kin who benefits from part of the estate according to the provisions under the Intestate Succession Act (for non-Muslims) or under Syariah law (for Muslims). The Administrator would also have to apply for Letters of Administration to be identified as the legitimate Administrator of the deceased person’s estate.
Depending on whether or not the deceased has prepared a Will, once the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration has been provided by the Court, the Executor/Trustee or the Administrator could then bring the Grant or Letters to relevant organisations such as banks, the Housing Development Board and/or insurance companies in order to find out about the assets and/or property that the deceased has left behind.
According to the Family Justice Courts (as of November 2018):
“Applications for grants of probate or letters of administration will have to be filed electronically through the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at 133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point #19-01/02, Singapore 059413. You may refer to https://www.elitigation.sg for more information and to download the relevant templates.”
TO DRAFT OR NOT TO DRAFT: WILL OR NO WILL?
If you intend to ensure your loved ones and/or a charity, foundation, or organisation are taken care of upon your demise, you should consider preparing a Will. Importantly, you also would not be able to select persons to take care of your estate if you do not prepare a Will.
As mentioned, when you die without leaving a Will behind, the persons responsible for taking care of your estate would be considered Administrators, not Executors. They would have to seek Letters of Administration from the Court and have to navigate through a more complex process that could take some considerable time for each family member. Administrators would have to secure two guarantors unless the Court gives them permission not to have to do so.
In light of the above, it might be prudent to have a Will prepared to ensure that your affairs will be in order long after you are gone, and also for the benefit of your loved ones.
Meaning of a Will
A Will contains your instructions on the allocation and management of your “estate” (i.e. your belongings or possessions, money, property and other assets) shortly after your death.
Your Will can be typed out or written by hand provided that it is documented and properly follows the requirements of the Wills Act 1838. Any spoken words about your wishes would not be considered a valid Will.
How a Will can help You and Your Loved Ones
Some of the advantages of leaving a Will behind are set out below.
Assurance that Your Instructions and Wishes would be complied with. A Will enables you to give instructions on how you want your assets, money and property (your estate) to be divided when you pass away. In your Will, you can provide for who should get what, and/or how much.Muslims are only able to distribute one-third of their estate in their Will because the rest of the estate is allocated in compliance with the Inheritance Certificate granted by the Syariah Court.
If you were to die without leaving a Will in Singapore, the assets and property that belong to you would be allocated in compliance with the Intestate Succession Act 1967, which might not be in accordance with your intentions and wishes.
Choice of Executor to carry out Your Instructions and Wishes. A Will enables you to choose your Executor of your estate upon your death. Your Executor would be responsible for managing certain important tasks in accordance with your instructions in the Will, such as assisting in or facilitating the distribution of your estate as stated in your Will.
Guardianship to look after your Children in case both parents pass away. A Will enables you to select a guardian or guardians who you trust to look after your children, especially if both your legal partner and you end up dying, leaving your children behind. The guardian or guardians would be tasked to raise your children.
Convenience. Your Will would make it easier for your Executor to secure a Grant of Probate, which is a simpler and faster process. In contrast, if you did not make a Will, an Administrator would have to be held responsible by the Court to administer your estate. The Administrator would often be a next-of-kin or your legal partner who may be entitled to part of your estate under the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act 1967(for non-Muslims) or under Syariah Law (for Muslims).
General Requirements for Making a Will
Basically, for your Will to be valid and legally binding:
as mentioned, the Will must be set out in a document;
you must be 21 years’ old or above (though you can be below 21 if you are a sailor at sea or serving in the military);
you must be “of sound mind” i.e. sane; able to reason, and not suffering from any sickness that affects your capability in preparing a Will;
either you must sign on your Will or someone in your presence and with your instruction must do so:
the signature of your Will should be done at the end of the last page in front of two witnesses over the age of 21 who are not beneficiaries of (this also applies to the partners of your beneficiaries, who also cannot be witnesses); and
those two witnesses would have to sign on your Will as well, with you present.
Please understand that you cannot provide for your witnesses (or their legal partners) as beneficiaries of your estate. Any provision in your Will that states as such will be invalid.
You should also see to it that your Will has been signed appropriately. Your witnesses’ respective names and identification numbers (IC numbers) should be set out in your Will. In addition, if your understanding of English is poor and you need an interpreter to explain the Will’s provisions to you in a language that you understand, the interpreter’s name and identification number also ought to be included in your Will.
Whether to engage or use a Lawyer
The law does not require you to use a lawyer when preparing your own Will, and you can also make changes to it without using a lawyer. However, if you write your own Will without a lawyer, concerns over its validity might arise, which could result in unnecessary costs.
You may wish to find a lawyer who can both advise you and prepare a Will for you based on your instructions, in compliance with the law and professional conduct obligations. If you wish to use a lawyer, you should proceed to do so without the beneficiaries of your Will (or their partners) in attendance. A lawyer may, based on your instructions, help you minimise the risk of others taking issue with your Will or even challenging its validity (e.g. on the basis of undue influence, unsoundness of mind or suspicious circumstances). We will do what we can to help you prepare your Will with a view to avoiding a dispute arising from it after your death.
If you find a lawyer, s/he can guide you through the process, take instructions from you, and advise you on the next steps accordingly, based on your instructions. Please understand that your lawyer cannot follow instructions that would break the law, or breach the lawyer’s duty to the Court and/or professional conduct duties.
Please note that the information below is not intended to be legal advice. It is meant to give you some understanding of the process generally. It is hoped that this will give you a better idea of your options in deciding whether or not to prepare a Will.
Your Executor or Trustee
If you have decided to write a Will, you should think carefully of choosing a suitable Executor or Trustee, who would be responsible for the management and distribution of your estate in compliance with your instructions and wishes included in your Will.
Your choice(s) of a suitable Executor or Trustee would depend on your own understanding of your own personal situation. You are responsible for making this decision.
Your Executor is the person who you select to manage certain important tasks before distributing your estate, which include:
applying for a Grant of Probate (to collect and distribute your assets to beneficiaries in accordance with your Will); as well as
settling your debts and/or any necessary expenditure as a result of your death e.g. funeral expenses.
Your Trustee is the person you select to handle the distribution of assets in accordance with your Will. In particular, if you wish to provide for a trust in your Will, you should consider choosing a Trustee to manage assets of the trust.
People often appoint one and the same person as Executor and Trustee.
Your Executor or Trustee should be:
must be of “sound mind” i.e. sane; able to reason and not suffering from any sickness that affects the carrying out of her or his duties; and
is not to be an undischarged bankrupt.
In your Will, you may select more than one Executor or Trustee, but not more than four persons in total (they would be referred to as Joint Executors or Trustees).
You may wish to select a “backup” Executor or Trustee as a replacement just in case the original Executor or Trustee who you have chosen does not wish to be your Executor or Trustee, suffers from a medical condition that affects his ability to carry out his duties, or dies before your own death.
On the one hand, you may consider that more than one Executor or Trustee (e.g. two Executors or Trustees) could be helpful so that they can work together to understand and carry out your instructions and wishes as provided for in your Will. On the other hand, too many Executors or Trustees might give rise to differences of opinions or views.
You should ensure that your Executor(s) or Trustee(s) who you have chosen understands the contents of your Will, preferably before your death. This is so that your instructions and wishes as expressed in your Will are carried out properly long after you are gone. You may wish to inform your Executor or Trustee (and even your family) that you have made a Will. But it is probably best to instruct your Executor or Trustee not to disclose the contents of the Will to others in the interests of your own peace of mind and keeping the peace in your family.
Choosing Your Executor or Trustee
When choosing a suitable Executor or Trustee, you may wish to, amongst others, consider taking up one of three options:
Personal Executor or Trustee. You can choose a relative or someone who you consider as a true friend to be your Executor or Trustee. Over and above the conditions set out in the above paragraph, the person you select ought to be fairly aware of your financial affairs to be in a position to carry out your instructions and wishes as stated in your Will.
Professional Executor or Trustee. Otherwise, you can choose a Professional Executor or Trustee. A Professional Executor or Trustee could either be a trust company operating under a licence provided by the Monetary Authority of Singapore or a lawyer. You may wish to choose a Professional Executor, in, amongst others, the following situations:
where you have a big or sizeable estate;
where you have property abroad;
where complicated legal issues might come about; or
where you think that relatives may take issue with your Will’s validity.
A Professional Executor or Trustee would also be in a good position to:
be aware of the law;
be independent from family matters, and hence a neutral, objective party; and/or
as a Trustee, particularly if one of your beneficiaries such as your child is below 21.
While a Professional Executor or Trustee would not be as familiar with your personal situation as someone who you are more familiar with, you can manage this issue by including a few more details in your Will so that the Professional Executor or Trustee would be in a better position to properly distribute your estate among your beneficiaries.
Both. Finally, you could choose the middle-ground “hybrid” option by selecting both an Executor/Trustee who you are familiar with and a Professional Executor/Trustee as Joint Executors and Trustees.
The Executor or Trustee who is closer to you can discuss your personal matters with you, including your preferred funeral arrangements.
The Professional Executor and Trustee could take on some complex responsibilities e.g. finding your assets and/or handling legal matters. For example, if a dispute between your children arose from the interpretation of your Will, the Professional Executor/Trustee, as an objective neutral party, might be able to manage the situation in the hope that the dispute does not escalate to Court.
Providing for your Children
If you and your partner have a child, your surviving partner who you married (or the other parent, if you are divorced) has the right to look after your child upon your death. But this surviving person can also look after your child along with any other person who you choose to be a “guardian” in your Will.
If in looking after your child together, there is a strong disagreement between your surviving partner and the guardian who you chose, the issue can be brought to Court. The Court is to prioritise the child’s welfare first. This means that the Court will consider the child’s welfare as the most important consideration. The Court will be mindful of the best interests of the child.
If the co-parent of your child dies before the time of your own death, you should think of choosing a guardian to look after your child. This is particularly the case if your child would be below 21 at the time of your death. The guardian(s) who you choose must be prepared to look after your child upon your death. Such appointment would normally take place upon the death of both parents. You should consider providing for the appointment in your Will if you have a child below 21 years’ old.
Your Beneficiaries (those who stand to benefit from your Will)
Your beneficiaries are those who stand to benefit from the distribution of your estate, including your assets, belongings and/or property. In your Will, you can provide for any of your relatives, friends or even an organisation. For example, you could include a provision in your Will setting aside a certain amount of money for a charity (or a foundation that has already been established for charitable causes).
When writing your Will, you may wish to state the (i) person(s) whom; or (ii) organisation(s) that you intend to provide your assets as well as property to by providing their full name and identification number (e.g. IC number), and/or the full name of the organisation (if any) respectively.
You can provide for your beneficiaries who are below 21 years’ old (e.g. children, nephews, nieces and/or godchildren who are below 21), but when you do so, it would be best to ensure that at least two Executors or Trustees are responsible for managing any assets or property for the welfare of those below 21.
How you could Apportion your Assets/Property in Your Will
You can allocate or set aside particular assets or particular amounts of money to an identified beneficiary. For instance, you could provide for the following in your Will:
that your immovable property, such as your house or land is to go to your child;
that a certain amount of money is to go to your partner in marriage; and/or
that your financial interests (e.g. shares) in a specific company or corporation is to go to your business partner.
Rather than apportioning your estate asset by asset, you could consider providing for the distribution of your whole estate amongst your chosen beneficiaries in proportionate, percentage terms. For instance, you could state in your Will that your entire estate is to be divided equally between your legal partner and child.
Assets that you are able to provide for in your Will
Broadly, assets which are only in your own name can be provided to a beneficiary under your Will, with certain exceptions that will be set out below. Some assets which you could provide to beneficiaries consist of your house, vehicle, shares, insurance payouts, cash, the funds contained in your bank account(s), your money, family heirlooms, gems, jewels and related accessories.
Assets that you are not allowed to provide for in your Will
You are not allowed to distribute assets that you do not legally own. Also, separate rules apply to the funds regarding your Central Provident Fund (“CPF”), and some kinds of assets (e.g. joint assets) as well as insurance policies that you share with another person.
Your Will cannot cover your CPF funds because those funds are not included in your estate. This is so that your creditors cannot make claims from those funds. In this regard, any provision in your Will on the distribution of your CPF funds would not matter. Hence, you should consider making CPF nominations separately from your Will so that those who you wish to benefit can easily claim those CPF funds.
The Central Provident Fund Act 1953 enables you to select nominee(s) who would be able to get the funds according to who you choose to allocate how much to.
You should consider selecting a nominee or nominees for your CPF account. Each person you select as a nominee will receive part of your CPF money as set out in your nomination.
If you have not nominated anyone, the CPF money will go to the Public Trustee’s Office and could be claimed by your next of kin. The funds would be given to your family members following the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act, or if you are Muslim, under an Inheritance Certificate. The recipients of the funds will have to pay an administration fee to the Public Trustee’s Office.
You would have to complete the Nomination Form of the CPF Board and submit it to the Board. You should sign the Nomination Form, which has to be witnessed by two people who are not your nominees, and who must be over 21 years’ old.
If you were to wed after filling up the Nomination Form, the nomination that you had already made beforehand would end with immediate effect unless you state that you made the nomination having considered your marriage. If you did not do so, you should complete and submit a fresh Nomination Form after you get married.
In contrast, your nomination as provided for in the Nomination Form does not immediately end should you get divorced. If you wish to, you may withdraw your nomination by completing the Notice of Revocation of Nomination Form and submitting it to the Board.
Assets that you share with someone else (e.g. Residential Property)
You could have assets with you that you own together with someone else. Generally speaking, if you and someone else share ownership of an asset, and one of you dies, the surviving owner has a right to the asset in its entirety. This general rule is called the right of survivorship, which is effective whether or not you leave a Will. One important exception to this general rule is when you share ownership of “immovable property”, such as a residential property.
Considering the above, if you share ownership of an asset with someone and you state in your Will that this asset is to be provided to another person who is not the surviving owner, this particular wish of yours would seldom prevail over the right of survivorship. Consequently, the surviving owner might be more likely to have a more legitimate claim to the shared asset.
On a related note, if you share ownership of a residential property with someone else, you should consider your legal interest in the property e.g. whether the shared ownership is a joint tenancy or a tenancy-in-common.
Joint tenancy. If your shared residential property is a joint tenancy, then each of you (i.e. you and the co-owner) would have hold an equal interest in the property that importantly cannot be separated or partitioned. The general rule on the right of survivorship would take effect, and the ownership of the property would go to the remaining surviving owner.
Tenancy-in-common. If your shared residential property is a tenancy-in-common, each of you owns a specific share of the property. As tenants-in-common, you may own 70% of the share while your partner may own the remaining 30%. On the basis of a tenancy-in-common, the general rule on survivorship would not take effect, and you would be able to distribute only your own share of the residential property in your Will. Otherwise, if you do not prepare a Will, your share as a tenant-in-common would be allocated in compliance with the Intestate Succession Act 1967.
You may wish to clarify or confirm the nature of your ownership of the residential property by referring to the relevant documents regarding title, such as the Certificate of Title for the property.
Residuary “catch-all” provision (providing for your remaining assets that have not been covered in your Will)
If you do take the trouble to diligently prepare a Will, whether alone or in consultation with your lawyer, you should consider setting out a residuary provision in your Will, so that your remaining assets will be distributed in accordance with your instructions and wishes. Otherwise, these remaining assets that have not been covered in your Will would be allocated in compliance with the Intestate Succession Act 1967.
If you have an insurance policy where payments are made at the time of death, you may consider electing beneficiaries who would be able to claim under the policy.
No elected beneficiaries from insurance policy
If you have not done so (or where you select your own estate as the beneficiary) the money from the insurance policy will be allocated and given to your beneficiaries as provided for in your Will.
In this case, the insurance company might give the payout to a proper claimant, who could be the Executor or Trustee of your Will, member of your immediate family, or a close relative such as your brother or sister. The proper claimant and recipient(s) of the payout would depend on what is stated in your Will.
If the insurance company is unable to determine who a proper claimant would be, it might ask for a verified copy of the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration before returning the insurance money to your estate. Court proceedings may take place, and the Court may decide who the appropriate beneficiary should be under your Will.
Where you have elected beneficiaries from your insurance policy
However, if you have indeed elected beneficiaries to receive the payout from the insurance policy, certain rules will take effect.
For example, if you have secured a life insurance policy, and you have identified a nominee under that policy, then the payout might or might not be given as provided for in your Will. Even if you wish to change the nominee (and state the change of nominee) in your Will, the end result or outcome depends on whether your nomination was a trust nomination or a revocable nomination.
Trust (Non-revocable) Versus Revocable Nominations under your insurance policy
In a trust nomination, you would have already selected your legal partner or child to benefit from the payout, who would have a right to claim it. In such a case, even if you later provide for a change of beneficiaries in your Will, this would not be effective, and your legal partner or child would still have a right to claim the payout.
In a revocable nomination, the “new” beneficiaries in your later Will that was prepared after the revocable nomination would stand to benefit from the insurance policy, not the “original” beneficiaries mentioned in the insurance policy itself. Put simply, the relevant provisions in your Will concerning the new beneficiaries would replace the original beneficiaries under the insurance policy. In such a case, your new beneficiaries as provided for under your later Will would be entitled to claim the payout from the insurance policy. The original beneficiaries under the revocable nomination would no longer be able to claim as such.
Considering the above, when drafting your Will, you must as far as possible examine:
which persons you elected to be beneficiaries under your insurance policy;
if any persons you had elected as beneficiaries in the past can be changed or withdrawn as beneficiaries; and
if you would be able to legally change the beneficiaries of the payout from your insurance policy through your Will.
It may be worth consulting a lawyer given the complexity of the factors listed above.
Making Changes or Amendments to Your Will
Do not try to change your will by cancelling any part, or inserting words in it, and/or enclosing any additional document. Doing any one of these things could result in invalidating your Will. If you want to make changes, you can either make a new Will that replaces the previous one or draft a “Codicil”, which is a supplementary document that makes the necessary changes and modifications to your original Will.
Add a Revocation provision if you make a New Will
You may consider it best to get rid of or shred your previous Wills to minimise the risk of misinterpretation (worse, a dispute or misunderstanding). Your new Will should also contain a revocation provision to invalidate any previous Will you had made.
Marriage or Remarriage
Your Will would no longer be valid if you were to marry or remarry unless your have included a provision in it to state that it had been prepared with marriage in mind.
Reviewing Your Will particularly when your circumstances change and/or significant developments take place in the family
You may wish to constantly revisit your Will, particularly when:
you make alterations to your name, or someone you mention in your Will makes alterations to her/his name;
an Executor or Trustee passes away or is unable to discharge his responsibilities due to age and/or sickness;
a beneficiary you identified in your Will passes away;
you later sell or transfer ownership of any property you mentioned in your Will;
you inherit or secure new property or assets that were not provided for in your Will.
In light of the above, you may wish to return to consider your Will fairly often, reconsidering the relevance of each provision.
Access to (and Awareness of) Your Will
Your preparation of a Will is a personal matter. Even so, you may wish to bring the existence and the secured location of your Will to the attention of your Executor(s) or Trustee(s).
Otherwise, you could leave your Will with your lawyer to take care of it for you, and give your Executor(s) or Trustee(s) your lawyer’s name and business location. You could also consider effecting the registration of your Will at the Wills Registry (under the supervision of the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office), which is free of charge. The Wills Registry cannot take copies of your Will for confidentiality reasons, but registration enables your loved ones to know how to get access to your Will in death.
DYING WITHOUT A WILL
Perhaps you just prefer let bygones be bygones, in that you may wish to leave your estate to be distributed naturally by letting matters after your own death run their course, in accordance with the intestate laws of Singapore.
This part only applies to Non-Muslims who did not prepare a Will, for a Muslim person who has not done so would be covered by the Administration of Muslim Law Act 1966 and Syariah law.
If you are a Non-Muslim, and you have not prepared a Will, you would be considered as having passed away “intestate”. As a Non-Muslim “domiciled in Singapore” (i.e. a resident in Singapore treating Singapore as your permanent home), your assets and property would be divided in compliance with the provisions of the Probate and Administration Act 1934 and the Intestate Succession Act 1967.
If you were to pass away without leaving a Will, your estate will, broadly, be divided amongst your family according to the priority set out below.
your legal partner, legitimate children (e.g. from your marriage, or adopted children under Brunei, Singapore or Malaysia law), grandchildren, and so on;
your siblings, nephew(s) and niece(s);
your grandparents; and
your uncles and aunties.
If you are divorced, your ex-partner would no longer be considered a legal partner, and s/he would no longer have a right to claim any of your assets and/or property under the Intestate Succession Act 1967.
Applicable Rules when you do not prepare a Will
The particular Rules under the Intestate Succession Act 1967 on the division of your estate when you do not leave a Will behind are as follows.
Rule 1: Where you have died and you have a surviving legal partner but no surviving children, grandchildren, or other descendants, as well as no surviving parents, then your legal partner shall get your entire estate.
Rule 2 read together with Rule 3: Where you have died and you have a surviving legal partner as well as children, your legal partner shall inherit ½ your estate and the remaining ½ will be divided equally amongst all your children. On a related note, generally, if any of these children have died before you but have children of their own (i.e. your grandchildren), then their parent’s share shall be split equally between them.
Rule 3: Where you have died and you no longer have a surviving legal partner, but you have surviving children, your children will be entitled to your estate in equal shares. If any of these children have died before you but have children of their own (i.e. your grandchildren), then their parent’s share shall be split equally between them.
Rules 4 and 5: Where you have died and you have a surviving legal partner and surviving parent(s), with no surviving children, grandchildren or other descendants, then your surviving legal partner shall get ½ your estate and generally the remaining ½ will be divided equally between your parents. If you only have one surviving parent, then generally that parent will inherit the remaining ½ of your estate.
If you no longer have a surviving legal partner, children, grandchildren or other descendants, then your estate will be divided equally between your parents. If you only have one surviving parent left, then that parent will get your whole estate.
Rule 6: Where you have died and you no longer have a surviving legal partner, parents, children, grandchildren or other descendants, then your estate will be divided equally between your siblings. If any of your siblings have died before you and have children of their own (i.e. your nephew(s) and niece(s)), then their parent’s share shall be split equally between them.
Rule 7: Where you have died and you no longer have a surviving legal partner, parents, children, grandchildren or other descendants, siblings, nephew(s) or niece(s), then your estate will be distributed equally to your surviving grandparents, if any.
Rule 8: Where you have died and you no longer have a surviving legal partner, parents, children, grandchildren or other descendants, siblings, nephew(s), niece(s) or grandparents, then your estate will be divided equally amongst your surviving uncles and aunties.
Rule 9: If none of the above Rules are applicable, then the Government of Singapore will get your entire estate. This could happen if you no longer have no surviving relatives.
Where you did not prepare a Will and Your Estate is below $50,000
Briefly, if your estate is below $50,000 and you did not leave a Will behind, a close or immediate relative can approach the Public Trustee to manage your estate. If the Public Trustee accepts responsibility for managing your estate, it will not be necessary for an Administrator to seek a Grant of Letters of Administration. However, fees would be payable to the Public Trustee in rendering such services. The Public Trustee has the discretion to decide against administering your estate in certain prescribed situations.
Applications to the Public Trustee where the estate is under $50,000 can be made through the following website: https://pto.mlaw.gov.sg/
APPLICABILITY OF THE INHERITANCE (FAMILY PROVISION) ACT (CAP. 138)
Despite the many advantages to preparing a Will, your entitlement to do so could be checked by the applicable sections of the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1966. This Act could apply upon your death, in a situation where your Will does not give enough support for your dependent(s). These dependent(s) could seek the Court’s approval for a reasonable amount of money from your estate, even when you have not chosen them to be your beneficiaries in your Will. The Court may instruct that your estate account for these dependent(s) either in one payment or on other terms that the Court thinks would be best. A dependent could be:
Your legal partner;
Your daughters who have not got married;
Your son who is below 21; and
Any of your children who because of some illness of the body or mind, cannot look after herself or himself: Section 3 of the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1966.
In light of the above, particularly if you can see potential complexities arising from your death, you may wish to consult a lawyer should you wish to prepare your own Will.
As mentioned, the information above is not intended to be legal advice, but is meant to give you some understanding of Wills and Estates generally. Hence, you should not see the information contained here as a comprehensive guide. Trident Law Corporation excludes liability for loss suffered by any person resulting in any way from the use of, or reliance on, this information.