How to Apply for a Grant of Probate in Singapore

singapore probate process

Introduction to Singapore Grants of Probate

An unfortunate misconception prevalent in Singapore is that you can execute a Will and then leave everything in the hands of the very capable executor you chose.

While that’s true to a certain extent, most Singaporeans don’t realize that when you pass away after executing your last will and testament, it’s necessary for the executor to apply for a Grant of Probate with the Singapore Courts in order to properly distribute the assets of the deceased’s estate.

Don’t let the term “Grant of Probate” intimidate you.

While it may sound like you’re applying for knighthood, the reality is that the Grant of Probate is just a court document that confers power on the executor or executors to administer the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

In the event the Will of the deceased does not name an executor, or if the appointed executor chooses not to fulfill the role, then there will have to be an application for Letters of Administration with Will annexed instead, which is a slightly different process from applying for a Grant of Probate.

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This article was contributed by Lee Shen Han from Lavocat Litigation. If you have any probate inquiries, you can contact him here.

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

Why do you Need a Grant of Probate in Singapore?

Even though a person passes away with a valid will in place, the financial institutions won’t just allow you to transfer the assets out without this court document. While it's true certain banks in Singapore may be willing to close an eye and allow the next of kin to close / take over the bank accounts of the deceased when the monetary amounts are small (usually less than $5,000), this practice seems to be becoming increasingly rare.

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 Probate.

Who can Apply for the Grant of Probate?

Only the stated executor or executors in the Will of the person who passed away can make the application for the Grant of Probate.

These stated executor or executors 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.

What is Required for a Grant of Probate?

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

  • The original copy of the last will and testament of the deceased.
  • The original death certificate.
  • Details and documents relating to the estate of the deceased.

For a Singapore probate application, the lawyer will need to bring the original copy of the Will to the Probate Registry at MND Complex upon filing, so please don’t be taken aback when you’re asked to leave the original copy of the Will with the law firm.

Your lawyer will usually also assist you in finding out more about the assets of the estate.

While the executor and beneficiaries of the Will 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.

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

Usually, if the Will of the person who passed away was properly drafted, there are unlikely to be many complications when applying for the grant. In fact, the majority of probate applications in Singapore move onto completion without a hitch.

Unfortunately, with the proliferation of the many different free/low-cost solutions for Singaporeans to execute their own will, the number of complications in probate matters may start to increase over the next few years.

The most common complication that arises during an uncontested probate application is when the testator (the person executing the Will) signs the Will in Chinese or uses a thumbprint.

In these situations, the attestation clause of the Will has to properly specify that the contents of the Will have been properly explained and interpreted to the testator and that the testator understands the content of the Will.

Unfortunately, not all will-drafters realize this, and if the Singapore Court flags this out during the probate application, it will require one or both of the witnesses to the Will to sign an Affidavit of Due Execution to verify that the Will was properly executed.

Other complications that can arise during a probate application include:-

  • The Will is undated.
  • The original copy of a Will is lost.
  • A subsequent Will is discovered that is dated later than the Will being admitted to probate.
  • The sole executor or executors stated in the Will refuse to take out the Grant of Probate.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the complications that can arise but most probate issues tend to revolve around these matters. Once these issues crop up, you’ll need to have a discussion with your lawyer on how to proceed with the application, as the probate application has a higher chance of turning contentious.

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

Yes, I get it. You don’t need to know the intricate details. You hired a probate lawyer so you wouldn’t have to deal with this very tedious process during a trying period in your life. The lawyer should just handle everything and everyone can just move on with their lives after the application is complete.

While it’s true that you can leave most of the heavy-lifting to the lawyer to handle, it’s a healthy approach to keep yourself informed about the various steps involved during the application for the Grant of Probate.

The following infographic provides a bird’s eye view of the steps involved when applying for a Grant of Probate in Singapore.

For a more detailed breakdown of the process, take a look at our in-depth guide after the infographic.

 

The Singapore Probate Application Procedure

Step 1: Documents for Filing

As mentioned earlier, prior to making the application for the Grant of Probate, it’s necessary to provide your lawyer with the original Will as well to let him/her witness a copy of the original death certificate of the deceased.

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

  • 1

    Ex-parte Originating Summons

    The Originating Summons is the first document required in the probate application. It is "ex-parte", which simply means that there are no other parties involved in the application.

  • 2

    Statement

    The bulk of the content of the application will be found in the Statement of the application.
    This Statement includes information such as the particulars of the deceased, the estimated value of the estate (for purposes of ascertaining which court to apply to), confirmation that the copy of the Will filed is a certified true copy of the Will and whether the application is filed within 6 months from the death of the deceased.

  • 3

    Certified True Copy of the Will

    This is a copy of the Will that comes together with a cover page stating that the copy is certified to be a true copy by an Advocate and Solicitor of the Singapore Courts.

  • 4

    Certified True Copy of the Death Certificate

    This is a copy of the Death Certificate (or Death Extract) which is certified to be a true copy by an Advocate and Solicitor of the Singapore Courts.

  • 5

    Caveat and Probate Application Search.

    This is a search of the record of caveats and record of probate applications in order to ascertain whether there is anyone who has made a prior application or who may be opposed to the admission of probate of the Will. A copy of this search has to be appended to the Originating Summons for the initial application to go through.

Once your lawyer has prepared these documents and submitted the original Will to the Probate Registry for verification, 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

Once the initial application for the Grant of Probate is accepted, there is a deadline of 14 days for the executor to sign a Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath.

If you are able to confirm all the assets of the estate at the beginning of the probate process without having to write to the financial institutions, your lawyer will be able to draft the Schedule of Assets and to include it together with the Supporting Affidavit.

This expedites the time required to extract the Grant of Probate and you can usually obtain the Grant of Probate relatively quickly when all the assets of the estate are known to the executor.

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 had 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 Probate

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 Probate.

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 Probate 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 Probate?

Congratulations! Now that you’ve gotten your Grant of Probate, you can bring the Grant of Probate and its related documents to the relevant financial institutions to extract/transfer the assets of the estate in accordance with the wishes of the testator.

A relatively recent amendment to the Wills Act in Singapore has provided that Wills in Singapore can be rectified no later than 6 months after the date on which the Grant of Probate is made (except with the permission of the Court).

As such, the excutor of the estate should take note that it’s recommended to wait for 6 months before distributing the assets of the estate in accordance with the Will.

 


This article was contributed by Lee Shen Han from Lavocat Litigation. If you have any probate inquiries, 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.