June 13, 2022

Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

If a deceased person dies and leaves a valid will, then the beneficiaries named in that document will get the assets. A Grant of Probate needs to be obtained by court application.

However, if the deceased left no valid will, then family members will have to ask the court to issue a Grant of Letters of Administration. Family members would then receive the inheritance according to the Intestate Succession Act.

Below we will explain the main differences between these two legal instruments.

When a person dies what happens to their estate?

In Singapore, a deceased person’s ‘estate’ is their property, effects, investments and bank accounts that they leave behind. This estate will need to be shared out amongst the deceased’s beneficiaries. To do this, a court order is needed, giving permission to the person dealing with the estate to:

  • Pay off any debts the deceased person owed,
  • Ensure bank accounts are closed, cash investments withdrawn and property transferred or sold, and
  • Distribute to the beneficiaries the remainder of the estate.

If the deceased left a valid will

If a valid will was made by the deceased before death, then the court will issue an order called a Grant of Probate. The person who will then deal with the estate is known as the executor.

If the deceased left no will

For people who die intestate (with no will) the court will issue an order known as Letters of Administration. The person who will then deal with the estate is known as the administrator.

Applying for a grant of Probate (where a will exists)

Only the executor named in the will can receive the Grant of Probate.

In the probate process, the executor is a crucial person – they will gather assets and ensure they are distributed to the beneficiaries. As the deceased had specifically appointed the executor in their will, the beneficiaries have no power to replace that person. Therefore anyone writing their will should choose the person very carefully, and ensure they are trustworthy and capable of seeing through the probate process to the end, which can take several months.

The executor should sell the dead person’s assets, deal with their affairs, settle any debts and then finally distribute the assets to the people named in the will.

The Grant of Probate acts as proof that the court sees the will as valid. It also provides confirmation to organisations and institutions who need it that the will is valid, and the executor is the correct person they should be dealing with and releasing funds to.

Applying for Letters of Administration (no will)

Although Letters of Administration are similar to a Grant of Probate, they are issued to the next of kin of the intestate deceased.

Anyone dying without a valid will has not named someone specific to be their executor. Therefore, the law provides a list of people who are eligible to apply for Letters of Administration. In order of priority:

  1. A spouse
  2. The deceased’s children
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers and sisters
  5. Nephews and nieces
  6. Grandparents
  7. Aunts and uncles

Sometimes, the person(s) who have priority to make a Letters of Administration application do not want to. If this happens, the beneficiaries can agree collectively that another person should be made administrator instead. If this happens, the beneficiaries may ‘renounce’ their right as administrator in favour of someone else.

Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act will apply if a person left no valid will. This specifies the division and distribution of assets. If the person has no children or parents living, for instance, the spouse is entitled to all of the inheritance. But if the deceased had children or living parents, then the estate is divided equally so the spouse gets half and the children get the other half.

Get advice from an experienced probate lawyer

If you need help with a will, probate or letters of administration, please contact us and one of our experienced probate lawyers will be pleased to advise you.

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