You would need to apply to the court for a Grant of Probate if the deceased person had made a Will. The inheritance of the assets would go to the beneficiaries named in the Will. On the other hand, if the deceased did not make a valid Will, the family members would have to apply to the court to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration. The inheritance would go to the family members named in the Intestate Succession Act.
In this article, we touch upon the core differences between the two.
What happens to a person’s estate when they pass away
When an individual dies in Singapore, the bank accounts, property, personal effects and investments the deceased leaves behind are known as their “Estate”. The person’s Estate needs to be distributed to their beneficiaries. The beneficiaries need to get a Court Order that gives authority to whoever is dealing with the Estate to:
- Close bank accounts, cash in investments and sell or transfer property;
- Pay off the deceased’s debts;
- Distribute the remainder of the Estate to the beneficiaries.
If the deceased had made a Will
If the deceased had made a will, the authority given by the court is called a Grant of Probate and the person dealing with Estate is called an “Executor”.
If the deceased person did not make a Will
If the deceased did not make a will, the authority given by the court is called Letters of Administration, and the person dealing with the Estate is called the “Administrator”.
If there was a valid Will – apply for Grant of Probate
A Grant of Probate will only be issued to the Executor named in the Will.
The Executor is an essential person in the probate process – they collect the assets and distribute them to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries cannot replace them as the deceased had specifically appointed the Executor in their Will. Hence, if you are thinking of making a Will, you should carefully consider your choice of Executor. The Executor must be someone you trust and capable of managing the probate process that can take several months to complete.
The Executor normally will do the following: deal with the deceased’s affairs, sell the deceased’s assets, pay off debts and finally, distribute the assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will.
The Grant of Probate is legal confirmation from the Court that the Will is valid. The financial institutions that require a Grant of Probate want to be sure that the Will is valid and the named Executors are the correct people responsible for dealing with the Estate before any funds are released to them.
If there was no Will – apply for Letters of Administration
Letters of Administration are similar to a Grant of Probate but are issued instead to the next of kin of an individual who dies without a valid Will.
If you have not made a Will, this means you have not appointed a specific person as your Executor to administer your Estate. Accordingly, the law prescribes a list of persons who can apply for Letters of Administration. The persons who can apply for Letters of Administration (in order of priority) are as follows:
- the spouse;
- the children of the deceased;
- the parents;
- brothers and sisters;
- nephews and nieces;
- grandparents; and
- uncles and aunts.
It is not uncommon that the person(s) who have priority to apply for Letters of Administration may not want to do so, and all the beneficiaries agree that someone more suitable should become the Administrator instead. In such an instance, the beneficiaries can “renounce” their right to be the administrator in favour of someone.
If the person did not leave behind a valid will, section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act kicks in. Section 7 spells out the division and distribution of the assets. So, if the deceased has no parents or children, the spouse will be entitled to the whole of the inheritance. If the deceased had children and a spouse, then the estate will be divided such that the spouse gets 50% and the children get the remaining 50% equally.
Always consult an experienced probate lawyer
Should you require any further support on wills, probate and letter of administration, please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced team of probate lawyers.
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