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Guardianship in Singapore: What happens to children if both parents die?

By: Jade McLean

I’m a “worst case scenario’ mum. Our baby is at home with the sitter and our car is going to careen into oncoming traffic, killing both of us. Our balcony is going to break off while we’re both sitting on it. Or some other Darwin-Award-worthy scenario will arise. The outcome is always that our two-year-old daughter will be left orphaned – my worst nightmare.

You’ve probably thought about the above too (hopefully in a less paranoid way), with parents generally spending huge chunks of the day worrying about our children. We also agree that we want to shuffle off this mortal coil before the kids – but certainly not while they’re young and at the same time.

But what if the unthinkable did happen in Singapore? Only to be exacerbated by the fact that our extended families are hours away on different continents. Who do we have to fall back on in the aftermath? Who can we trust to take care of our children before our relatives arrive and our main will is executed?


Most of us don’t have a temporary guardian in place. Most of us don’t even want to think about it. But if you’re a regular on the Singapore Expat Wives Facebook forum, you might have caught the recent discussion on the subject of both parents meeting an untimely demise. It was lengthy, to say the least.

But what does need to be done to ensure that your kids don’t experience the extra trauma of being placed in foster care while your main will is being executed? I went along to hear a talk from will expert will expert Philip Duckworth on how to avoid this if the worst case scenario did happen. These were his main points….

  • Permanent guardians are appointed in the will or by a letter lodged with guardian, lawyer or family friends.
  • In the event of both parents passing at the same time, a letter of temporary guardianship can appoint local friends of the family to look after the children until the permanent guardians arrive.
  • Without this letter, the children will be looked after by the Singapore authorities.
  • The court of protection has the ultimate say over guardians, so if they deem your temporary guardian to be unsafe for any reason, they could overrule this (although very unlikely).
  • Most parents would name a friend in Singapore (maybe parents whose children are friends of their children).
  • A helper should not be named as she may lose her legal right to be in the country upon her employer’s death.
  • Permanent guardians will eventually take the children out of Singapore and should bring as many identifying documents as they can. Pack documents such as birth certificates and passports.
  • Letters of guardianship should also work in many Civil Code countries.