If the deceased left behind a will, the will should generally specify a person to be appointed as the executor. The executor will carry out the instructions of the will-maker (i.e. the testator).
The beneficiaries need the Executor to submit the relevant documents, including a certified copy of the specific will, to the court, to apply for a Grant of Probate.
Note that only the executors named in the will can apply for the Grant of Probate.
In the event, the deceased passed on without a will, or if the appointed executor(s) chooses not to fulfill the role, then there will have to be an application for Letters of Administration to the court, which is a slightly different process from applying for a Grant of Probate.
So what exactly is a Grant of Probate?
Probate is the way authority is given to the personal representatives of a deceased who has drafted a valid will. Grant of Probate is a court order, authorizing an executor to administer the deceased’s estate following the directions of the will.
Where to apply for the Grant of Probate in Singapore?
If the total value of the estate of the deceased person is below $3,000,000, the application can be made to the jurisdiction of the Family Courts. If the total value of the estate of the deceased person exceeds $3,000,000, the application is made to the jurisdiction of the Family Division of the High Court.
How to apply for the Grant of Probate?
Because of the complexity involved regarding necessary documentation, it is advisable for the layperson to engage a lawyer in facilitating the application process.
To start, the Executor or Administrator should see a lawyer and bring along the following (as far as possible):
- Original death certificate;
- Original will, if any;
- Identity cards of executor/administrator and beneficiaries;
- Marriage certificates, birth certificates, and death certificate of next-of-kin;
- List (and value as of the date of death) of assets in Singapore and overseas with supporting documents, e.g. bank statement, insurance policy, share certificates etc.;
- Foreign Grant for resealing, with certified exact copies and translations;
- Inheritance Certificate from Syariah Court for Muslims.
Is there a difference in the probate process for Muslims?
Yes. Generally, there are 3 main steps to managing and distributing a Muslim’s estate after they passed on.
- Apply for An Inheritance Certificate at the Syariah Court.
- Engage a probate lawyer well-versed in Syariah law to assist in applying for probate as a Muslim estate must be distributed according to Islamic inheritance laws.
- An appointed person will administer the estate wholly in accordance with faraidh principles.
What are the roles and duties of an Executor?
As mentioned above, the administrative role of the Executor is first to obtain the Grant of Probate from the court. This is usually done with the help of lawyers.
- Extract the Grant of Probate. Before the executor file for the request, he should search to ensure that there are no caveats in force against the estate.
- Make arrangements for the funeral of the deceased;
- Assess and determine the total assets and liabilities of the deceased.
- Pay the debts or liabilities of the deceased’s estate. In the case of an insolvent estate, the order of priority in the repayment of debts can be found in the Bankruptcy Act, after fulfillment of the First Schedule of the Probate and Administration Act. In the case of a solvent estate, the order of repayment can be found in the the Second Schedule of the Probate and Administration Act;
- Resolve the outstanding income tax liability of the deceased, according to section 58 of the Income Tax Act;
- Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries or their respective guardians, in accordance with the will.
Requirements to be an Executor
- In Singapore, an executor has to be at least 21 years of age. An executor can also be a beneficiary under the will, so it is possible to select your spouse or an adult child as long as the executor is over 21, not a bankrupt and is of sound mind.
- In Singapore, one cannot appoint a bankrupt as an executor.
Alternatively, you could pick a professional executor. This person would be either a lawyer or a trust company licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
How long does it take to obtain the Grant of Probate?
It usually takes a shorter period to obtain a Grant of Probate compared to the Grant Letters Of Administration because of additional steps required for the latter.
In non-contentious probate applications, the entire process may take around 3 to 6 months. Grant of probate should be issued within a month of the last court document being filed.
The next article will be on Grant of Letters of Administration (when there is no will).