Dying without a Will in Singapore is not uncommon. Generally, when a person passed away without a Will, he or she is said to have died intestate. Accordingly, the Deceased’s estate will be administered and distributed in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act (Cap. 146) (for non-Muslim estates) or in accordance with Muslim law (for Muslim estates).

Before the estate is allowed to be distributed, there are four questions to answer:

1. What is the Deceased’s domicile?

2. What are the Deceased’s estate?

3. Who should distribute the Deceased’s estate?

4. Who are the beneficiaries and how much are they entitled to?

1. What is the Deceased’s domicile?

A person’s domicile is a place where he intends to make it his permanent home. To this end, it will determine the place where the primary probate process will be carried out. On top of that, it will decide who will be the personal representative to carry out the administrative process for the estate. In general, there are 5 factors to determine a person’s domicile:

i. Nationality

ii. Place of Residence

iii. Whether he bought any property in the country

iv. Whether his family is with him

v. Length of time that he has been living in the country.

For example, I am a Singapore PR with a house in Malaysia. At the same time, I have been staying with my family in London for the past 10 years. Now, I have been making plans to relocate my family to Singapore for retirement. In this case, it is likely that I am domiciled in Singapore. Therefore, the primary probate process will be carried out in Singapore.

SEE ALSO:  Intestate Succession Act Singapore

2. What are the Deceased’s estate?

Next, we will gather and find out what are the assets that are left by the Deceased, including its value. Thereafter, check with the relevant institutions if a grant is required to realise the assets. This is because some assets can be transferred and distributed without a grant.

E.g. CPF monies, flats held under joint tenancies, certain insurance policies with nomination.

If a grant is not necessary, we may proceed to distribute the assets directly.

In the case where the assets cannot be distributed directly to the beneficiaries, there are two options:

1️⃣ If the value of the estate is less than $50,000, the next-of-kin may consider to apply to the Public Trustee for them to administer the estate. In most cases, a grant is not required if the Public Trustee agrees to administer the estate.

2️⃣ Otherwise, proceed to apply for Letters of Administration. To this end, the process can be done in person, through a solicitor, or legal aid.

3. Who should distribute the Deceased’s estate?

In the situation where a grant is required in order to distribute the asset, the next-of-kin may apply to the Court for a grant of Letters of Administration. In most cases, the beneficiary with prior right (larger entitlement) has the priority to apply for the Letters of Administration.

In most cases, the process to obtaining a grant of Letters of Administration takes an average of 4 to 6 weeks and I have summarised the process in the following infographic (🖱 click or tap on the infographic to zoom).

Steps on Application for Letters of Administration
Steps on Application for Letters of Administration

🖌 Trivia: Letters of Administration will not be granted to more than 4 persons for the same estate.

4. Who are the beneficiaries and how much are they entitled to?

After the Court has issued the Grant, the administrator (i.e. the appointed next-of-kin) may bring it to the various institutions to realise the assets. Accordingly, he is responsible to administer the estate. Some of the duties of the administer includes:

  • Pay off the liabilities for the Deceased
  • Pay for the funeral and other expenses
  • Distribute the balance according to the Intestate Succession Act (Cap. 146) (for non-Muslim estates); or
  • Distribute the balance in accordance with Muslim law (for Muslim estates)

Conclusion on Dying without a Will in Singapore

Altogether, leaving the world without a word may be easy. However, the last thing that I will want is to cause inconvenience and unnecessary trouble to my family. By the same token, we have heard many families who have lived in harmony and turned sour when a family member passes away.

Furthermore, the Intestate Succession is the law’s attempt to create a fair distribution of my estate. What if there is an unintended beneficiary? Or what if someone that I care for is left out by the law? In that case, dying without a Will in Singapore will definitely cause more conflicts than to rest in peace. ⚰️

For information on Intestate Succession Act, you may read more in my post – Intestate Succession Act Singapore. 

Reference for this article has been made with the following sources:

Intestate Succession Act (Chapter 146)

Probate And Administration Act (Chapter 251)


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