Need some professional advice? The team from Consilium Law Corporation answers common queries on a range of legal issues in Singapore. Here they look at the issue of death, wills and estates.
What happens if my partner dies while we are living in Singapore?
When a loved one passes away in Singapore, the family of the deceased must first obtain a Certificate of Cause of Death. This is done by notifying a doctor, or, if there isn’t one available, the police. A funeral director should also be notified, for arrangements relating to the collection and transportation of the body to the location of the wake. The death must be registered at any police station, or the Registry of Births & Deaths. These steps must be done within the first 24 hours of death. You should also inform your embassy and consular office.
What do I do with my partner’s property if he has a will?
Any property left behind by the deceased at the time of death forms the “deceased’s estate”. If a valid will is located, it’s the role of the appointed executor of the will to administer its effects. This is done by applying for a Grant of Probate through the Singapore Courts. Once the Grant has been extracted, the executor may administer the deceased’s estate in accordance with the will. You may wish to engage the services of a solicitor to assist with the application and process.
Please note that if there is a minority interest under the will – that is, when a person under the age of 18 years has an entitlement – there must be at least two executors appointed.
What happens if the executor lives outside the country; is there someone else that can do this?
A person is not obliged to act as executor of the will, and may choose to renounce his right to act as the executor. Renunciation can be done orally, or in writing, signed by the person renouncing and witnessed by an advocate and solicitor or Commissioner for Oaths.
What happens if my partner dies and there’s no will?
If there was no will left behind by a deceased – that is, they died “intestate” – you may apply to the court to be appointed the administrator of the estate by applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration (“LA”). There must be two applicants if there is a minority interest. Once the LA has been extracted, distribution of the estate is carried out according to the Intestate Succession Act, in the following way:
Survivors – Beneficiaries and their share of the estate:
- Spouse only – 100 percent
- Spouse and children – Half each
- Spouse and parents, no children – Half to spouse, half to parents
- Parents only – 100 percent
- Siblings (or their children) – 100 percent
- Grandparents – 100 percent
- Uncles and aunts – 100 percent
- None of the above – Singapore Government takes 100 percent of the estate (including children)
My husband and I are going away for the weekend; if there’s an accident and we both die, what happens legally to our children?
What safeguards can we put in place? You should appoint a guardian for your children under a will or deed – this person is known as a “Testamentary Guardian” (TG); note that the TG doesn’t have to be a relative of the children. If you appoint a non-resident in Singapore as your TG, you should provide for a temporary TG who is resident here to look after the children pending the arrival of your TG. If no such guardian is appointed, an intended guardian must apply to the Singapore Courts to be appointed as “Legal Guardian”, and the court may appoint such a person as it sees fit. The applicant must reside in Singapore, though they needn’t be related to the parent and children.
For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section