What is Probate?

Following the death of someone with a valid Will, their executor(s) (and their trustees, if applicable) whom the deceased appointed in their Will, must apply to a court for a Grant of Probate.

However, if the deceased made no Will, or the Will they made is deemed invalid, then the deceased’s next of kin may make a court application for a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Applying for a grant of probate is neither quick nor simple, as you will see from the complex steps listed below. It is highly advisable to hire a lawyer, who will be familiar with the process and can execute it on your behalf.

Where should the application be filed?

The gross value of the deceased’s estate Which court?
Less than $3m Family Justice Courts
More than $3m Family Division of the High Courts

If no executor was appointed by the deceased in their Will, then the court will grant the Letters of Administration with the Will annexed to whichever person the courts deems “fittest to administer the deceased’s estate” (pursuant to section 13 of the Probate and Administration Act).

As a Grant of Probate application involves many documents, it is sensible to seek professional legal advice from a lawyer – especially if the probate application is a contentious one.

How do you apply for the Grant of Probate?

The process for applying for a Grant of Probate is as follows. Your lawyer will be able to guide you through it:

Preliminary step: preparation of documents for application

The application forms involved in obtaining a Grant of Probate are listed on the Family Justice Courts’ website. They are:

(a) Ex parte Originating Summons

This is the first document necessary for the application. The words ‘ex parte’ mean that no other party is involved in the application – in other words, the executor(s) is the only applicant.

To file the Originating Summons, use Form 48 found in Appendix A of the Family Justice Court Practice Directions (FLegal AdviceD). The applicant must provide the following information in this form:

  1. Details of the deceased
  2. Details of the applicant(s)
  3. The requested order – “probate be granted to the Applicant(s)”

In addition, the applicant should attach a Certificate of Results of Caveat and Probate Application Searches (in Form 52 of the FLegal AdviceD) to the Originating Summons. This confirms that a search for any caveat and probate application related to the estate of the deceased is complete, and no prior caveat or probate application was found.

Also to be attached by the applicant are the digital copy of the search report summary or any positive search outcomes that were found of caveat or prior probate application.

(b) Statement for Probate or Administration – Form 51

The Statement for Probate for Administration, in Form 51 of the FLegal AdviceD, is the second document required. The application must provide certain information regarding the deceased, their estate, and the applicant(s). The following information is required:

  1. Particulars of the deceased, their domicile (i.e. their country of residence prior to their death) and information regarding their death;
  2. An estimation of the value of the deceased’s estate (and whether the gross value is more or less than $3 million);
  3. Confirmation that the copy of the Will that has been filed is a certified true copy (CTC). The original Will is submitted to the Family Justice Courts for verification;
  4. Confirmation that the applicant is appointed in the Will as an executor;
  5. Confirmation as to whether or not the application has been filed within 6 months of the deceased’s death – and if not, a reason should be provided for the delay.

In practice, before completing the electronic form on the applicant’s behalf, a lawyer will obtain the above information from the applicant.

(c) Death Certificate – Certified True Copy (CTC)

A certified true copy of the deceased’s death certificate should be submitted to the court by the applicant. This enables the court to verify that the estate’s owner was legally certified as deceased.

Some applicants are unable to provide a death certificate. These applicants may do a Death Record search (if they cannot remember the date of death) or they can apply for a Death Extract (if they can provide the deceased’s full name, NRIC and date of death). The applicant can use the online extracts portal of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to apply for these searches.

(d) Will – Certified True Copy (CTC)

On the certified true copy of the Will to be filed, a declaration should be written on the cover page, attached to the CTC, as follows: “This is a certified true copy of the original Will of (name of the deceased) dated (date).”

Following the filing of the CTC and the cover page, the original Will should be filed at the Family Justice Courts’ Probate Counter before 4.30pm on working days. The court will verify the Will’s authenticity, and then the court shall return the Will to the applicant, or the lawyer acting for the applicant.

An applicant should always ensure the Will is written in English. If it was in any other language, the applicant should apply to the court translator for a translation (a lawyer can help the applicant to do this). In a supporting affidavit, the court translator will be required to verify the accuracy of their translation.

However, certain exceptional situations do sometimes arise:

  1. It is permissible to submit a CTC of the Will instead of the original, if the original Will is in the custody of a foreign court;
  2. In the event that the original Will is lost, a draft copy of the Will can be submitted if the draft and final Will are identical. This situation may lead to contest, so it is highly recommended that the applicant seek legal advice.

(e) Caveat & Probate Search

The applicant, on the day of the probate application, shall conduct a search of both the records of caveats and probate applications. They must attach a digital copy of the search report for the original summons (including any results of a positive search that were found).

Step 1: Main Application Submission

The main application concerns filing the documents mentioned above in court. If a lawyer has been engaged, they will file the application electronically using the eLitigation portal. If the executor wishes to apply without legal help, they must apply via the eLitigation Service Bureau’s counters.

Once all documents have been filed by the applicant, a provisional probate case number and an item checklist will be generated. As we have seen, a lawyer is required to submit the original Will to the Family Justice Courts, via the Probate Counter, by 4.30pm on the following working day. Next, the applicant must provide supporting documents, as outlined below.

Step 2: Supporting Documents Submission

(a) Administration Oath

The executor or trustee who is applying for administration rights over the deceased’s estate must give an undertaking to the court that he or she will distribute the estate according the instructions of the deceased in their final Will. The deceased’s debts should be paid by the executor, using the estate’s monies (according to section 28 of the Probate and Administration Act).

A lawyer (if you have engaged one) will prepare the Administration Oath with Form 54 in Appendix A of the Family Justice Court Practice Directions (FLegal AdviceD). The Administration Oath should be signed by the applicant in the presence of a Commissioner for Oaths. Following this, the Administration Oath should be filed electronically on the eLitigation portal.

(b) Supporting Affidavit

A Supporting Affidavit should be filed by the applicant within the relevant deadline (i.e. within 2 to 3 weeks from the filing of the Administration Oath). A lawyer can prepare a Support Affidavit for the applicant (using Form 225 in Appendix A of the FLegal AdviceD) and the applicant signs the Supporting Affidavit in the presence of a Commissioner for Oaths.

The following documents are required to be exhibited in the Supporting Affidavit:

  • Statement (which the Court has filed and accepted)
  • The CTC of the Death Certificate and the last/final Will of the deceased
  • Schedule of Assets (please see the section below for more information on this)

(c) Schedule of Assets

All the deceased’s properties and debts in Singapore at their date of death will be revealed in the Schedule of Assets.

The applicant should calculate the values of the property of the deceased as at their date of death (including both real estate and other personal properties).

Real estate: this means the deceased’s HDB flat or private property, or any part-share in a property or flat.

Personal property: any property other than real estate. This can include any monies the deceased had in bank accounts, fixed deposit accounts, unit trust accounts, stocks and shares, vehicles, insurance policies (must check whether the policy is assigned to anyone), items in a safe deposit box of the deceased, or costly jewellery. Note that this is not an exhaustive list, and the applicant’s lawyers can be consulted for more detailed advice.

It is important to remember that savings in the deceased’s CPF accounts are excluded from the Estate. If someone had been nominated by the deceased to inherit CPF monies, then those monies shall be distributed to the deceased’s nominee(s). However, if no persons were nominated to inherit savings, the monies of the deceased will be distributed by the Public Trustee under the intestacy laws – to be inherited by the family members who rank according to the rules on distribution (see section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act).

Any property of the deceased which is located abroad shall also be listed in the Schedule.

Once the deceased’s assets are confirmed, the applicant (or their lawyer) will file, via the eLitigation portal, the Schedule of Assets pursuant to Form 226 in Appendix A of the FLegal AdviceD, as well as the checklist and the Supporting Affidavit. A separate application is required if there is any amendment to the Schedule of Assets.

Step 3: Court Hearing

Following the filing and acceptance of the application and Administration Oath, the applicant (or their lawyer) will be notified by the court of the hearing time and date.

The lawyer for the applicant will attend the probate hearing unless the supporting documents (Supporting Affidavit and Schedule of Assets) are filed and accepted by the court prior to the hearing date. If this occurs, then the hearing may be cancelled by the court.

Step 4: Supplementary Affidavit and Schedule of Assets Submission

In the event that the applicant is unable to confirm the deceased’s assets during the early stages of the application process, a lawyer may assist them in writing to the relevant financial institutions. As financial institutions will demand express authorisation from the applicant/executor(s), the applicant/executor(s) will be asked by the lawyer to sign a Letter of Authorisation.

Based on the Support Affidavit, the court will grant an ‘Order-in-Terms’ of the probate application. The applicant or their lawyer can then write to the relevant financial institutions in order to obtain detailed information from them about the deceased’s outstanding accounts/monies/shares.

Once the applicant’s lawyer has obtained the relevant information, they can then complete the Schedule of Assets on the applicant’s behalf. The applicant will be asked to sign that the Supplementary Affidavit contains the complete Schedule of Assets. The lawyer will file both of these documents on the eLitigation portal. If the Schedule of Assets is amended, that shall be filed separately in another application.

Step 5: Grant of Probate Extraction

Once the court has accepted the Supplementary Affidavit and Schedule of Assets, and has confirmed that no documents have been left out, the lawyer for the applicant can ask for the extracting of the Grant of Probate.

In order to make sure there are no caveats or pending applications lodged against the deceased’s estate, a final search is required. The final search results must be submitted in order to request the extraction.

It is not required for the executor(s) and/or trustee(s) to sign an Administration Bond, as the deceased had entrusted his/her estate to them already, in his/her final Will.

If all the documents are in order and relevant fees have ben paid, the court will prepare and issue the Grant of Probate, also attaching the Schedule of Assets. An electronic copy will be sent to the applicant’s lawyer via the eLitigation portal.

A Grant of Probate will not be issued by the court unless the executor(s) and/or trustee(s) has paid the deceased’s inheritance tax, which applies to people who passed away before 15 February 2009, but not on or after that date.

A lawyer’s assistance may be sought by the applicant in order to obtain a Paper Grant, bearing the red seal of the court. After the executor(s) and/or trustee(s) receive the Grant of Probate, they may then begin to manage and distribute the deceased’s estate.

How can we help?

If you have managed to read and understand this far, then well done. A Grant of Probate application is a complex and tedious process. It is better to get a lawyer’s help in the matter, to ensure your journey to the Grant of Probate application is smooth and less of a burden. We have a lot of experience in this process, and our fees for handling the process for you are transparent and affordable.

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