How to Apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration in Singapore

letters of administration singapore

 

Introduction to Singapore Grants of Letters of Administration

When a person passes away without making a valid will in Singapore, someone from the family of the deceased will usually apply to the court to take over the administration of the estate.

Generally, those applying to take on this responsibility are known as the personal representatives of the estate of the deceased, and the court order given by the court in such a scenario is known as the Grant of Letters of Administration.

Why do you Need a Grant of Letters of Administration in Singapore?

When a person passes away, the financial institutions in Singapore won’t just allow you to handle the the assets of the estate without this court document.

While it is true that certain banks may allow you to close out the accounts when the sums involved are small, generally the banks, insurance companies, HDB, SLA and the Central Depository (where SGX shares are held) simply will not entertain you unless you produce a certified true copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration.

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This article was contributed by Lee Shen Han from Lavocat Litigation. If you need assistance with extracting the Grant of Letters of Administration, you can contact him here.

Alternatively, you can Whatsapp / text him on his mobile at 8823 6130.

Who can Apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration?

Usually, it will be the next of kin or someone closely related to the deceased who will apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration.

In Singapore, the Intestate Succession Act determines the beneficiaries to the estate of the deceased, and the party or parties with the prior right to obtain the Grant is usually the beneficiary or beneficiaries with the most to gain from the estate in accordance with Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act.

These parties with the right to administer the estate also need to have reached the age of 21 at the time of the deceased’s death and cannot be bankrupt at the time when making the application.

How do you Determine the Beneficiaries of the Estate of the Deceased (and the Beneficiaries with the Prior Right to Getting the Grant of Letters of Administration)?


What happens when there are Beneficiaries below the Age of 21?

When there are beneficiaries to the estate of the deceased who are below the age of 21, Singapore law requires 2 sureties for the purpose of protecting the rights of these minors.

(A surety is simply someone who bears responsibility for the administrator’s undertaking to administer the estate of the deceased properly.)

In most cases, the administrator or administrators will not be able to find sureties as it’s usually quite difficult to find someone willing to take up such an onerous responsibility.

Fortunately, it is quite common for applications for dispensation of sureties to go through. This is done through a Summons application in the Singapore Court and is an additional step your lawyer will have to take in order to obtain the Grant.

What is Required for a Grant of Letters of Administration? 

In general, if you are getting the assistance of a lawyer to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, you will need to provide the lawyer with the following details:-

  1. The original death certificate.
  2. The original copies of the NRICs and birth certificates of the beneficiaries.
  3. The original death certificates of any deceased beneficiaries.
  4. The original birth certificates of any children of deceased beneficiaries.
  5. The original adoption papers and birth certificates of any adopted beneficiaries.
  6. The original final judgments of divorce (if necessary).
  7. Details and documents relating to the estate of the deceased.

Your lawyer will usually go through Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act with you thoroughly to properly determine the relevant beneficiaries for the purpose of obtaining the Grant.

Your lawyer will usually also assist you in finding out more about the assets of the estate. While the administrators of the estate usually have a rough idea what assets the estate comprises, it can be a helpful exercise to write in to various financial institutions in Singapore to inquire whether the deceased had any assets there.

If your lawyer is assisting in writing to various financial institutions, you will have to sign authorization letters permitting the law firm to make these inquiries on your behalf.

=> How do you choose the right lawyer for this?

What are the Potential Complications when Applying for A Grant of Letters of Administration?

One common issue many administrators face is providing the death certificates of relevant beneficiaries who have passed away. While it is usually possible to obtain a certified death extract from the Immigration Checkpoint Authority, there are occasional cases whereby it is not possible to obtain the death extract.

In such a scenario, the administrator or administrators will usually have to provide an Affidavit stating the reasons why it was not possible to provide the relevant death certificates.

Another potential complication that can arise would be the discovery of a Will during the application for the Grant of Letters of Administration. This can have far-reaching consequences and can potentially be an even bigger problem after the extraction of the Grant.

Other complications that can arise during a letters of administration application include:-

  1. Living beneficiaries that cannot be located.
  2. Disagreement among the beneficiaries with an equal right to the Grant of Letters of Administration over who will be the person or persons to administer the estate of the deceased.
  3. Protecting the rights of mentally incapacitated beneficiaries.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the complications that can arise and there are many other pitfalls that can occur. Once these issues crop up, you’ll need to have a discussion with your lawyer on how to proceed with the application.

What Happens After You Engage a Lawyer for A Grant of Letters of Administration?

Usually, the lawyer will go through the relevant aspects of the Intestate Succession Act with you to determine the rightful beneficiaries to the estate of the deceased.

If there are minors (beneficiaries below the age of 21), he or she will usually advise you to proceed with making the application to the court to dispense with the necessity of the 2 sureties to the estate given the difficulties of finding such parties.

Once the relevant beneficiaries have been ascertained, and an administrator or administrators have been decided upon, the procedure for obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration is not that much different from that of the application for a Grant of Probate.

Take a look at the following chart for the steps involved in the application for a Grant of Letters of Administration in Singapore. For a more detailed breakdown of the process, take a look at our in-depth guide below.


 

The Singapore Letters of Administration Application Procedure

Step 1: Documents for Filing

Your lawyer will have to prepare the following documents for the submission of the application to Court:-

  1. Ex-parte Originating Summons
  2. Statement
  3. Certified true copies of the Death Certificates of Relevant Beneficiries.
  4. Certified true copies of Final Judgments for Divorce (If necessary).
  5. Certified true copy of the Death Certificate of the Deceased.
  6. Caveat and Probate Application Search.

The bulk of the content of the application will be found in the Statement of the application. This Statement includes information such as:-

  1. The particulars of the deceased, including information about his death, religion and domicile.
  2. The estimated value of the estate (for purposes of ascertaining which court to apply to);
  3. The beneficiaries of the estate.
  4. Details of the beneficiaries who have passed away.
  5. Whether the application is filed within 6 months from the death of the deceased (and if not, the reason for the delay).

Once your lawyer has prepared these documents and submitted the application, the Singapore Courts usually take about one to two/three weeks to accept this initial application.

Step 2: Writing to Financial Institutions

If you are uncertain about the assets of the estate, your lawyer will usually work with you to make inquiries to the necessary financial institutions to obtain the necessary information.

However, your lawyer can only start writing to the financial institutions when the Singapore Courts accept the initial application. This is because most of the financial institutions in Singapore require a certified true copy of the court-approved ex-parte Originating Summons before they are willing to release the necessary information.

This process of obtaining information from the financial institutions will usually be quite a drawn-out one. The financial institutions in Singapore will only respond to letters sent by snail mail and obtaining the relevant information can take from 2 weeks to a couple of months, depending on the information requested for.

Step 3: Supporting Affidavit, Supplementary Affidavit and Administration Oath

After the initial application for the Grant of Letters of Administration is accepted by the Singapore Court, there is a deadline of 14 days for the administrator to sign a Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath.

If details of all the assets of the estate are provided and available at the beginning of the letters of administration process, your lawyer will be able to draft the Schedule of Assets immediately and to include it together with the Supporting Affidavit.

This accelerates how long it takes to extract the Grant of Letters of Administration and it is possible to obtain the Grant within a month or two when all the assets of the estate are known to the administrator.

Your lawyer will usually arrange an appointment for you to sign these documents within these 14 days in front of a Commissioner for Oaths in Singapore, or in front of a Notary Public, if the executor happens to be overseas.

In the event your lawyer has to write to the necessary financial institutions to make inquiries about the assets of the estate, the usual procedure is to file the Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath within 14 days, and to file a Supplementary Affidavit (with the Schedule of Assets) once all the responses from the financial institutions have been received.

Once all the necessary documents are received by the Court, the Court will go through the filed documents at a hearing of the probate application and grant its approval provided there are no issues with the application.

Step 4: Extraction of the Grant of Letters of Administration

Once the Supporting Affidavit (together with the Schedule of Assets) and Administration Oath has been signed, filed and accepted by the Court, your lawyer will be able to apply for the extraction of the Grant of Letters of Administration.

One final caveat and probate application has to be conducted by your lawyer and the results have to be filed together with the application for the extraction.

At this stage, the Court includes an option for a Paper Grant, which is a Grant of Letters of Administration on high quality paper embossed with the Court’s red seal.

In practice, most Singaporeans will not require this as there are additional fees to pay for the Paper Grant, and the certified true copy of the electronic Grant of Probate provides you with exactly the same rights as the Paper Grant.

What Should I Do After Obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration?

After getting your Grant of Letters of Administration, you can bring this Grant and its related documents to the relevant financial institutions to extract/transfer the assets of the estate.

Do note that the administrator or administrator has an obligation to pay off the debts of the estate first before subsequently distributing the assets of the estate in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.


This article was contributed by Lee Shen Han from Lavocat Litigation. If you need assistance with extracting the Grant of Letters of Administration, you can contact him here.

Alternatively, you can Whatsapp / text him on his mobile at 8823 6130.

Disclaimer: While we have taken great, great pains to make sure this guide is accurate and up to date, we take no responsibilities for any inaccuracies within. You use this information at your own risk.