Without a will, a deceased’s estate may only be administered or distributed according to Singapore’s intestacy laws. For non-Muslims, the administration must follow the Intestate Succession Act (ISA), while Muslims must follow Muslim law.
This guide covers applying for a Letter of Administration in Singapore under the ISA or Muslim law. It is for deceased loved ones who have not been able to draft a will before their passing (died intestate).
The Grant Of Letters Of Administration
Before assets or the estate can be distributed, an appropriate person must apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This legal document recognises an applicant as the sole administrator of the deceased’s estate. They will manage and distribute the estate to the corresponding beneficiaries after the deceased’s outstanding debts and other expenses have been paid.
If you are applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration, you must visit any Family Justice Courts in Singapore.
In cases wherein the departed has left a will, an applicant must secure a Grant of Probate instead.
Why It Is Important To Apply For A Grant Of Letters Of Administration
Often, those who want to handle and distribute a deceased’s estate must apply for a Grant of Letters. To reiterate, this is in cases wherein the deceased has failed to leave behind a will.
However, you also need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration when there is a “failure of executors” in the following circumstances:
- The deceased has not appointed an executor in the will.
- The executor(s) appointed by the will have been rendered legally incapable of acting as executors. Or they have renounced their right to act as one.
- The executor(s) has passed away before the deceased.
- The executor(s) passed away before applying for probate while administering the deceased’s estate; or
- The executor(s) appointed by the will do not extract probate and do not appear.
An administrator is a person legally designated by a Grant of Letters of Administration to administer the deceased’s estate. As mentioned, the administrator should ensure that the deceased’s pending debts, liabilities, taxes, funeral, and other expenses have already been paid. Afterwhich, they will distribute the estate balance following applicable laws like the ISA or the Muslim Law Act.
Person(s) Who Can Apply As An Administrator
Section 19 of the Probate And Administration Act (PAA) says that the Court may grant Letters of Administration to the departed’s spouse, next-of-kin, or both.
The ISA defines seven classes of persons entitled to apply for a Grant of Letters at any Family Justice Courts. Here they are in descending order of priority:
- Nephews and nieces;
- Grandparents; and
- Uncles and aunts
Infants or individuals below the age of 21 and mentally incapacitated individuals cannot legally be administrators. If, for instance, the person entitled to administer the estate is an infant, the responsibility will be revoked and transferred to their guardian instead.
Similarly, suppose the individual entitled to a grant has a mental disorder. In that case, the grant will be made to the individual entrusted to handle the mentally disordered person’s affairs.
Number Of Administrators That Can Be Appointed
The Court can appoint up to 4 administrators. If either of the beneficiaries of the estate is under 21 years old, either of the following scenarios can take place:
- Two administrators must be appointed or;
- A trust corporation
In cases where there are two or more administrators, they will cooperate in administering the estate. They must act in the interests of the deceased as stipulated in the will. Additionally, they must be unanimous in all decisions.
However, there are cases wherein entitled individuals who can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration do not wish to do so. For example, if you are one such individual, you may renounce your right to apply for a Grant of Letters through the following:
- Oral renouncement (by you or a lawyer) during the hearing for a Grant of Administration
- Signed writing in the form of an affidavit (by a lawyer or a Commissioner for Oaths)
What To Know Before Applying For A Grant
Before you apply for a grant, you must understand the following:
- Types of assets – Some assets, like CPF (Central Provident Fund) money, immovable property under a joint tenancy without an outstanding mortgage, and some insurance policies with nominations, can be distributed even without a Grant of Letters.
- Value of the estate – If the estate value is under $50,000, a Public Trustee may administer the estate.
- Foreign individuals entitled to an estate/interest in residential property – If such individuals exist, the estate must be immediately transferred to the beneficiaries. Or they must be sold within five years from the date of passing under the Residential Property Act.
Steps In Applying For A Grant Of Letters Of Administration
Fortunately, the Family Justice Courts have prepared a Probate & Administration Toolkit to assist individuals who want to apply for a Grant of Letters.
However, if you want to be assisted by a lawyer, you may do so. The deceased’s estate can already cover the legal fees in this undertaking.
Below are the steps in applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration:
Step 1: Prepare The Necessary Documents
Make sure you have the following documents ready before applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration:
- Service Bureau Form for Application for Letters of Administration – You can download this form from the e-Litigation website. Click on Probate Application/Citation. You will need to fill in administrative details (i.e. yours and the deceased’s name).
- Schedule of Assets (Form 226) – This form is for distributing the deceased’s assets in Singapore and overseas. It is also for outstanding debts in Singapore, which can be paid through a mortgage. If you don’t know the value of the deceased’s assets, you will have to obtain the information from the corresponding financial institutions.
Eligible applicants who want to renounce their right to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration must fill out and sign Form 53, “Renunciation of Beneficiaries with Prior Right”.
Additionally, you will also need to secure the true certified copies of the following supporting documents before applying:
- The deceased’s death certificate
- The next-of-kin’s death certificates (wherever applicable)
- The deceased’s divorce certificate (wherever applicable)
- Foreign grant (wherever applicable)
- Inheritance Certificate (wherever applicable)
Step 2: Search For Existing Caveats And Other Probate Applications On The Estate
Bring all secured documents to the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at the Singapore State Courts. This is where you’ll be searching for existing caveats, probate applications, or claims to administer the deceased’s assets. Make sure to attach all reports to your application.
Step 3: Submit All Documents
Submit all your documents to the Service Bureau. Explain why if you’re applying to secure the grant after more than six months have passed since the deceased’s passing.
Upon submission of your application, wait 1-3 weeks before the Courts accept it. If they spot any errors, they will reject your application, and you will have to file the documents again.
When your application has been approved, visit the Service Bureau to secure the approved documents.
Step 4: File The Administration Oath And Affidavit
You will confirm that your application details are correct through the Supporting Affidavit.
Meanwhile, you will need to take the Administration Oath, stating you will administer the estate faithfully and according to the deceased’s wishes. For the process to be legally-binding, make sure you take the oath before a Commissioner for Oaths.
Step 5: Prepare A Schedule For Assets
You will need to prepare and file a Schedule for Assets alongside the Supporting Affidavit. For this step, you may need to coordinate with financial institutions, creditors, banks, and the CPF board.
Preparing this document only after your application for the Grant of Letters of Administration is approved is advisable. The reason is that these institutions need a certified true copy of the Court-approved application before they give you the information you need.
However, you might have to wait a few weeks or months before these financial institutions write back. If you don’t hear from them before the deadline for filing the Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath, file these documents first, even without the Schedule of Assets.
Once you submit everything and there are no missteps in your application, the Court will grant you an “Order in Terms”. Your application is approved once you get a Court letter stating you must extract the grant.
Step 6: Extract The Grant By Filling Out The Necessary Form
After securing your Letters of Administration, you must extract this grant by submitting the Request to Extract Grant Form. You will need to conduct the final caveat and probate search in this step. File the results together with the request for grant extraction.
Finally, you will receive the Grant of Letters of Administration, authorising you to handle the deceased’s assets.
Becoming an administrator of a deceased loved one’s estate can be difficult initially. Several legal complexities surround this case and can confuse the common folk.
If you need to engage with a lawyer, contact our professionals from The Singapore Lawyer. We can help you with various issues, such as calculating the cost of a Letter of Administration, writing a will, and other concerns.
Get a free 30-minute consultation with The Singapore Lawyer now, so we can help you find the most effective legal remedies for your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Letters Of Administration In Singapore
How Long Will It Take To Secure A Letter Of Administration In Singapore?
On average, it takes two to three months to secure Letters of Administration, depending on the nuances of your case.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Apply For A Letter Of Administration?
No. However, if a lawyer is not assisting you with the application process, you must remember to file a Schedule of Assets along with the letter of administration.
What Happens If The Deceased Was A Muslim, Or Passed Away While Overseas?
If the deceased individual was a Muslim who lived in Singapore, the Administration of Muslim Law Act would apply. In this case, you should obtain the Inheritance Certificate from the Syariah Court before applying.
What Is The Cost Of Letter Of Administration In Singapore?
The cost of the application depends on the assisting lawyer or law firm’s fees. Kindly contact us at The Singapore Lawyer for more information on our legal fees.