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Inheritance Law in Singapore - Legal Assistance on Wills and Inheritance

Inheritance Legislation in Singapore

Updated on Monday 13th December 2021

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The Intestate Succession Act in Singapore

 
When we refer to legal matters regulating inheritance procedures in Singapore, the main rule of law is the Intestate Succession Act. This rule of law became applicable in Singapore in 1967 and its latest amendments were enforced in 2013. The legislation prescribes the manner in which successors can receive their lawful part of an inheritance, be it movable or immovable property
 
The Singapore Intestate Succession Law applies only to non-Muslim Singapore citizens who have not left a will. The legislation provisions the distribution of assets between successors based on their residency, whether the property is movable or immovable and whether the property is located in Singapore or abroad. Considering the Inheritance Law is quite complicated, it is advisable to ask for legal counseling from our Singapore lawyers when it comes to inheritance matters.
 
You must also be aware, as a heir of a person who died intestate, that you will not be able to influence the manner in which the division of assets is done regardless of your wishes, or what you know to be the wishes of the person who has passed away. 
 
As long as there isn’t a will, the heirs will receive parts of the property only in accordance with the regulations of the Intestate Succession Act, and this is why it is very important to have a will; for more details, our law firm in Singapore remains at your disposal. 
 

Singapore Inheritance Law – the division of family assets 

 
The law on inheritance in Singapore prescribes the legal procedures that have to be applied when the properties and assets of the deceased must be divided among the successors, in the case in which the deceased did now draw a will. However, these could be situations in which even if a will exists the inheritance legislation could still apply. 
 
According to the legislation on inheritance which is based on the Singapore Civil Law, the following rules apply in case of distribution of assets: the whole estate is left to the spouse if there are no children, the estate is divided between the spouse and the children, if they exist, and the estate is divided between the spouse and parents if the deceased’s parents still live. If the deceased left behind only living children they will divide the assets among themselves. For more information about the division of assets you can refer to our law firm in Singapore.
 
The manner in which the division of assets occurs when a person dies intestate is regulated by the Section 7 of the Act, in which the priority follows the next order: spouse and children, parents, siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles. Depending on who is a surviving relative in relation to another category of relative, the division of assets will occur, as presented above. 
 
In the case in which the deceased does not have a partner, a child (or children) or surviving parents, and if he or she has siblings, then the siblings will be entitled to receive equal amounts of the inheritance. You must know that if there aren’t any surviving siblings, but the siblings had children, the children are entitled to request the right to inheritance on behalf of their parents. Given that each family situation is different, we invite you to address to our Singapore lawyers for advice. 
 
Provided that there aren’t any surviving relatives from any of those that are legally entitled to inheritance, any assets belonging to the deceased person will become the property of the government. For additional information on wills and inheritance, our team of lawyers in Singapore is ready to assist you. 
 

What other rules apply for inheritance in Singapore?

 
The Intestate Succession Act regulates numerous aspects that can appear when we refer to inheritance and legal heirs, but also on the procedures that must be followed in each particular case. Here, it is necessary to know that the law does not make any distinction between heirs who were born throughout a testator lifetime or those who are related to him or her and who were in the womb at the moment when the respective person died, as the respective children, if born alive, are also entitled to inheritance through their lineage with the testator. 
 
With regards to those who are related by blood and those who are not, according to the law, persons who are related by blood with a testator will rank higher than those who are not related by blood or those who are only half related by blood. One must also know that the distribution of the assets can be regulated under different rules of law based on the nature of the property and the location where the testator died. 
 
For instance, in the case in which we refer to movable property of a person who has passed away, the inheritance rules of the country where the last domicile of the person was will apply, which means that the Singaporean regulations will not apply in this case. 
 
However, if we refer to immovable property and its distribution, the rules of law applicable in Singapore will apply regardless of where the last domicile of the person was. Our team of lawyers in Singapore can present extensive information on this subject, if you are interested in knowing which are the procedures on the distribution of assets, movable or immovable. 
 
 

Wills in Singapore

 
The oldest and simplest form of determining who should be entitled to one’s estate is the will. Most Singapore citizens draft wills in order to establish the administration and distribution of their assets. The person making the will is called a testator and the recipients are called beneficiaries. 
 
Currently, the Singaporean society can be seen as one in which drafting a will is not a very common decision, as only few of the country’s citizens prefer to have a will that presents very clear information on how the assets will be divided. Drafting a will has become increasingly popular amongst Singaporeans with tertiary studies, working as white collar employees, who have the necessary background in order to understand the benefits of this document. Below, you can find some interesting information on drawing wills in Singapore
 
  • persons with an age of 45-50 years old represent the age category that is most interested in drafting a will;
  • it is estimated that, at the moment, a maximum of 10% to 15% of the Singaporean society has signed a will;
  • those who need information on the wills that are signed here, or who need to verify if certain data is correct, can request an information on wills from the Law Society of Singapore on the 15th of each month;
  • the cost of the inquiry is of $107 for those who work as law practitioners, including for our team of lawyers in Singapore, a fee which also includes the GST, charged at a rate of 7%;
  • for any other party that wishes to obtain information from the Law Society of Singapore with regards to Singaporean wills, the fee is of $214. 
 

What happens when a person dies in Singapore without a will?

 
The inheritance law in Singapore does not impose the obligation to draw and sign a will and thus, in numerous cases, people can die without having a will. However, this will not stop the division of assets amongst the legal heirs and the next of kin, but certain procedures will be different than in the case of those who have signed a will
 
Thus, after the death of a person, all the belongings of the person are frozen (we refer here to bank accounts and other important properties, which will not be sold by anyone until the particular situation is resolved and the local authorities determine who the heirs are and what they are entitled to obtain from the deceased’s assets). 
 
In the case in which the person has money in bank accounts and other types of securities, the accounts can’t be used by anybody after the death of the person. In order to be able to access the accounts of the deceased, a person who is next of kin, such as spouse or a child, must first apply for an approval to have the right to access the respective accounts. 
 
Simply by being related to the person will not grant access to the person’s accounts, as long as there isn’t a will to specify who the person wants as an administrator of the money or other accounts. Thus, the surviving spouse or other next of kin must apply for a document, named Letters of Administration, which is issued by the local courts
 
This is the standard procedure that is prescribed by the inheritance law in Singapore; if you need information on the procedure that has to be started in this case, our team of lawyers in Singapore can help you in this process. The Letters of Administration represents a document that will provide access to all types of properties that the deceased holds. 
 
In order to have the right to sell or own the property of a person who died without signing a will, the Letters of Administration is necessary; the same applies for bank accounts – this is the only document that will allow another person to withdraw money from the respective account. 
 
It also applies to insurance policies or to smaller value assets, such as cars and other vehicles. The inheritance law in Singapore stipulates that this procedure is started by the spouse or by the eldest child of the deceased, but this is not necessarily applicable in all cases. 
 
Regardless of who the next of kin is, in order to receive the Letters of Administration, it is necessary to appoint a legal specialist. Here, our team of lawyers in Singapore can represent you in front of the court; once the applicant receives the Letters of Administration, the person will become the administrator of the entire estate, as appointed by the court. 
 
When the person will receive this title, this means that he or she will not simply be the owner of the entire property, but that he or she will become the administrator, meaning that he or she will assess and collect the properties of the deceased, but will also be responsible for paying any remaining debts that the deceased may have had. 
 
The person will have to bear the responsibility of distributing the assets in accordance with the provisions of the inheritance law in Singapore. Considering that this can be a challenging task, it is highly recommended to address to our law firm in Singapore for legal advice on the procedures that have to be initiated in this case. 
 
Even though the person who is appointed as administrator may know the provisions of the law and the order in which the heirs can receive property and assets, as well as the share they are entitled to, the procedures to enter into the possession of such assets can be more complex and it will always be necessary to verify different documents regarding the relatives of the deceased, the title deeds of various properties and so on. 
 
And since this is not a simple task, our team of lawyers in Singapore can be of great help. Please mind that, according to the inheritance law in Singapore, the following persons can receive the title of administrators through the Letters of Administration: spouse, children, parents, brothers/sisters, nephews/nieces, grandparents and uncles/aunts. 
 
However, it is important to know that if there are more persons that are interested in becoming the administrator (only one can be appointed to have this function), the court will establish which is the one that is more suitable for this position, in accordance with the provisions of the inheritance law in Singapore
 
In their wills the testators can include who the beneficiaries of their estate are and who will administer the assets if these are left to underage beneficiaries. The will must be drafted in the presence of two witnesses who cannot be beneficiaries or the husband or wife of the testator. For assistance in drafting a will or details about the inheritance legislation you can contact our attorneys in Singapore.