How Do I Contest a Will in Singapore - Professional Legal Representation
How Do I Contest a Will in Singapore?Updated on Thursday 31st March 2022
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The Singapore inheritance and succession legislation applies depending on whether the deceased has left a will or not. If a person dies intestate, meaning without leaving a will, the Intestacy Act applies and in this case the estate is divided among heirs.
One must also know that a special legislation applies to Muslims living in Singapore.
It is a common practice for Singapore citizens or residents to prepare wills. One of the greatest benefits of drafting a will in Singapore is the fact that the city-state has no forced heirship regime like other countries.
However, there are situations in which the beneficiaries of the estate are not happy with the division of assets and try to contest the will. Our Singapore attorneys can provide you information about the laws on inheritance and succession applicable in the city-state.
Grounds for contesting a will in Singapore
There are several cases in which the beneficiaries are entitled to contest a will. The Family Provision Act also grants several grounds under which a will can be contested in a Singapore court. The decision of the court could lead to the invalidity of the will.
The reasons that can be invoked in order to contest a will according to the Singapore inheritance legislation are related to few scenarios.
One can prove that the testator was influenced by another person when drafting the will, the testator was not in their full mental capacities when preparing the will or if the testator was forced to draft the will.
Also, the closest relatives to the deceased, such as the spouse and children, are entitled to other compensations if the deceased did not mention them in the will.
The compensation can consist in a monthly allowance or a lump sum; our lawyers in Singapore can offer additional details on this subject.
Besides these, it must be noted that technical issues can become legal grounds for contesting a will. When drafting and signing a will, the testator must comply with certain legal requirements and, if any of these are not completed as needed, then other parties can have the possibility of contesting the said will.
This is why it is always recommended to address to our law firm in Singapore for in-depth legal advice on all the steps of this legal procedure.
Signing a will in Singapore means that the testator must appoint an executor of the will, and, at the moment when the document is signed, two witnesses have to be present and sign the document.
If any of these legal requirements are not met, then it is very simple to contest the will in front of a local court.
Please be aware that even if the testator did not appoint an executor, the will can still be valid, in certain conditions which can be detailed by our team of lawyers in Singapore.
The will can have a letter of administration attached to it in this case. As we mentioned earlier, not having full mental capacities can also lead to the invalidation of the document.
Provided that one can prove that the testator had mental issues which did not allow him or her to assess his or her own possessions and divide them amongst heirs as required by the law, the document can also be contested.
For instance, persons who have been diagnosed with dementia can’t draw a will.
When addressing to a court, one should know that the process itself can take a long period of time, as well as important financial resources and so, if the value of the estate left through the will is not very relevant, contesting the will may not be the best solution.
The right to contest the will is not only limited to the legal options recognized by the Singaporean law, but also by the kinship you have with the testator, meaning that you must be a close relative, who is entitled to inherit estate.
You are also allowed to contest a will in the case in which you can prove that you were dependent to the testator and the provisions of the will do not offer you many advantages or you think that you are entitled to receiving more.
In this particular situation, you must know that the legal actions for contesting the will have to be taken in a period of maximum six months since the execution of the will. Here, you must complete an application for maintenance and the court will establish if the will was fair or not based on specific factors.
Here, the court will need information on your current and future financial situation, how your relationship with the deceased was (a good conduct must be proven) and whether the testator intentionally preferred not to provide for you or leave a larger part of the estate to you.
Given that this is a complex matter, you should request legal advice from a law firm in Singapore prior to addressing to the court.
It must be observed that a will can be contested in the case in which the testator gave specific instructions to the lawyer drawing the will with regards to the manner in which the assets will be shared and the respective lawyer failed to do so.
These can be by writing a lower sum of money for a specific person, by omitting or forgetting to write the name of another heir and so on. In this case, the lawyer can face various penalties, so after writing the will, the document should be thoroughly analyzed so that errors like this can be avoided.
How can wills lawyer in Singapore help clients?
The activity of a wills lawyer in Singapore is rather extensive and it can refer to numerous situations. One of the main legal activities is to help individuals draw and sign wills.
This procedure is done following the wishes of the testator and the applicable law. The following important responsibility of a lawyer in Singapore is to participate in the distributions of the assets.
Of course, this can be done only after the testator passes away and the legal heirs will enter the possession of their assets. The lawyer also has the ability to represent their clients in front of the court.
Here, there are 2 main situations: the 1st refers to standard legal procedures started in the court, by applying for a Grant of Letter of Representation.
Through this document, the entitled parties can start the process of claiming the testator’s assets. Please mind that the procedure must be started in a period of maximum 6 months since the death of the testator.
If this legal action is taken at a later date, more complex procedures will be initiated to be able to distribute the assets amongst the heirs.
When it comes to court action, the wills lawyer in Singapore can also offer legal representation in any probate proceedings. The attorney can also assist in the procedure of selling the testator’s life possessions, including real estate.
If the testator had any debts, from a legal point of view, the debts will also be inherited by the heirs of the testator, who will have the legal obligation to pay any outstanding debts.
Our law firm in Singapore can help clients in finding suitable ways to pay the debts, in accordance with the type of debt and the financial situation of the persons who inherit the respective debts.
The following video offers a short presentation on the procedure of contesting a will in Singapore:
What is the data on drawing wills in Singapore?
Currently, drawing a will in Singapore is very common procedure amongst certain categories of the Singaporean society. As a general rule, persons who are more educated will be interested in this procedure, as well as those who are considered white-collar professionals.
It must be noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a positive influence on drawing wills in Singapore. At the moment, this industry is characterized by the following:
- the interest in signing a will is generally observed in the case of persons with an age of 40-50 years old, white-collar professionals, who take their parents to a lawyer for this procedure, and who also want to draw their own wills;
- there isn't any clear data of how many people have actually drawn wills in Singapore, but the estimates present that maximum 15% of the population (of 5,6 million citizens) have signed a will;
- according to the data presented by the Singapore Academy of Law, in 2019, there were 3,911 wills registered with the Wills Registry;
- in January 2019, the institution’s data recorded 250 wills registrations, while in June 2019, it increased at 307;
- in Singapore, a person can draw a will since the age of 21, and the testator (the person drawing the will), has to be witnessed by at least 2 witnesses.
What are the main components of a will in Singapore?
In order to be allowed to contest a will in Singapore, any of the conditions mentioned in this article must apply.
One can be entitled to contest a will if the document was not drawn in accordance with the minimum legal requirements, which stipulate that the document must contain specific information. Below, our Singapore lawyers have prepared the main stipulations that should be included in any will, as follows:
- a detailed list of the assets of the person who is drawing the will;
- in the case in which the person has various liabilities, a detailed list of such liabilities must also be included;
- the names or the persons who will benefit from the respective inheritance;
- the name of the guardians of persons who are minors;
- the name of the persons who will act as executors of the will;
- the name of the legal advisor or lawyer in Singapore who is responsible for the will.
According to the law in Singapore, in the case in which a part of the assets of the person preparing the will refers to any joint property (such as a joint bank account or shared real estate property), then the said assets can’t be included as the assets of the testator when signing the will.
You must also be aware that you can’t include in your will any Central Provident Fund money that you may have. The Central Provident Fund (CFP) refers to a mandatory retirement fund addressed to Singaporean citizens. The money accumulated into this fund are obtained from employment activities.
The value of the CFP earnings can’t be distributed through a will; in this particular case, the owner of the CPF money should nominate a beneficiary for the respective account.
The owner of the fund can nominate more persons, who will be approved by the CPF Board, which will make the necessary arrangement to transfer the money in accordance with the wishes of the CPF owner.
Does the wills lawyer in Singapore charge fees?
Yes, all lawyers in Singapore charge various types of fees depending on the legal service that they provide to their clients, as well as the type of clients they have (individuals or companies).
The fees can be established based on the complexity of the case, the number of lawyers who have to participate in the solutioning of the case and numerous others.
Also, the experience of the lawyer can influence the value of the fee (more experienced lawyers will charge more, compared to lawyers with fewer years of practice).
Lawyers can choose to charge based on an hourly rate or they can establish a fixed fee for a particular case. The fee is also calculated depending on the value of the estate and assets left by the testator.
Here, the Singapore law distinguishes between 2 main categories: estate valued at maximum $3 million and estate with a value above $3 million.
The fee is also influenced by the type of probate – contentious or non-contentious cases. Provided that there is a large number of heirs, the fee can increase.
The same applies in the case in which the wills lawyer in Singapore will have to analyze documents of persons who are heirs and who do not live in Singapore or who are not Singaporean citizens.
All of these will influence the fee system because overall, the number of documents that the lawyer must analyze will increase. For non-contentious cases, the fee can vary from $2,000 to $6,500.
Of course, one can find wills lawyers in Singapore who can charge less or more than this average sum. In the case of contentious probate, the fees of the attorney can increase at $10,000- $40,000.
When you will address the lawyer for the application for the Grant of Letter of Administration, you must know that the attorney will typically charge a fee of $900 to $1,000, this being the standard fee for this procedure.
Things to consider on contesting a will in Singapore
Our law firm in Singapore can present all the aspects that can be of interest for a person who wants to contest a will.
However, our team has also prepared a short presentation on few aspects that you should know prior to engaging into this legal procedure, which can be a challenging process for those who are not familiarized with the formalities regarding inheritance.
This is why you should know that a will can be contested in Singapore even in the case in which the testator has not specifically mentioned your name in the document, as long as you are related and you are entitled to a part of the inheritance.
The same applies in the case in which the person has died intestate. Our team of lawyers in Singapore can provide legal advice if you are not sure if you are entitled to contest a will or not.
One must also know that, from a legal viewpoint, a person is allowed to contest a will even when the assets are distributed or after they were distributed amongst the persons who were nominated in the will, as long as the respective person has the right to contest the document.
If the assets were distributed and the person is actually entitled to the respective assets or to a part of them, then the said assets can be re-distributed.
Drawing a will in Singapore – soldiers and sailors
In most of the cases, the legislation on drawing a will in Singapore follows the same legal requirements and provides the same legal grounds for contesting the respective document.
However, when we refer to sailors and soldiers, different rules will apply, and you can refer to our team of lawyers in Singapore for in-depth information if you work as a soldier or a sailor or if you are the heir of persons who have these professions.
According to the Wills Act, a person who works as a soldier, a sailor, mariner or seaman is entitled to draw a will even in the case in which the person has an age below 21 years old.
The law also includes persons who work in the air force. You can rely on our Singapore lawyers for more information on how to draw a will if you work in any of these sectors.
These are the sole valid legal options through which a Singaporean citizen is entitled to draw a will prior to the age of 21, which is the formal age at which a person can have the right to draw a will.
This is given by the fact that persons working in these sectors have more risks due to their work activities and, in the event in which a life-threatening risk appears, all persons with an age below 21 years old should be allowed to express the way in which their life possessions and assets should be distributed amongst their close relatives.
Assistance in inheritance matters offered by our Singapore lawyers
Our lawyers in Singapore can help foreign citizens owning assets in the city-state to prepare their wills in accordance with the Inheritance Law. Furthermore, our legal team will explain the advantages of drafting a will.
We can also assist the beneficiaries of an inheritance in litigation cases related to the division of the estate or in case they want to contest the will. For complete information about the preparation of wills in the city-state, do not hesitate to contact our law firm in Singapore.