When a person passes away, two circumstances may arise: either the deceased was able to leave behind a will, or the deceased died intestate.
When a non-Muslim person dies intestate, Singapore’s laws apply the Intestate Succession Act (ISA). This means that the deceased’s estate has to be administered and distributed according to the ISA.
A person often appoints an executor in his or her will. The executor must extract the Grant of Probate from Singapore courts to distribute the deceased’s estate.
There may be situations where the deceased’s next of kin is required to apply for Letters of Administration. Even if the deceased leaves behind a will, the deceased’s next of kin may have to apply for Letters of Administration in the following situations:
When a person passes away without leaving behind a will, the closest next of kin shall become the administrator. The administration must obtain Letters of Administration in order to legally administer the deceased’s estate.
In some instances, however, the appointed executor as stated in the will may not want to perform the appointed role. This may occur when the executor finds managing and distributing the deceased’s estate to be too burdensome.
There are also incidents wherein the deceased fails to inform the person of their appointment as executor. If the appointment comes as a surprise to the executor, for instance, then the chances of them renouncing their role is higher.
The deceased’s closest next-of-kin is required to apply for Letters of Administration, and must do so to undertake the role of the administrator of the deceased’s estate. The person who applies for the Letters of Administration must also annex the original will.
To some, it may seem that the roles of executor and administrator are the same. However, there are several differences between them. If the deceased leaves behind a will, the executor is empowered with the authority to manage his or her estate once the testator passes away. In such scenario, a probate of the will is not required.
When the deceased does not leave behind a will or dies intestate, the deceased’s next of kin will be in charge of distributing the estate once they have received the Letters of Administration. If the administrator has not yet obtained the Letters of Administration, the estate will first be managed by the Public Trustee.
The court grants the Letters of Administration and appoints the deceased’s next of kin as an administrator. This empowers the appointed administrator to maintain and distribute the deceased’s estate according to Singapore law.
According to the Intestate Succession Act, there is an order of priority for the deceased’s next of kin in terms of who can apply first for the Letters of Administration.
The next of kin that can apply are the deceased’s:
When a person intends to act as an administrator of the deceased’s estate but is not the highest priority according to the above-mentioned classes, they must first receive a renunciation and a signed consent from the persons having a higher priority than him or her. A Commissioner of Oaths’ presence is required.
First and foremost, infants and bankrupts cannot be appointed as administrators. If the deceased’s most relevant next of kin is an infant, the Letters of Administration will be made out to his or her guardian. If he or she has attained the age of 16, the grant will be made to any next of kind that he or she nominates.
At least two administrators or a trust corporation should be appointed if any of the deceased’s beneficiaries are below 21 years of age.
The court may appoint a maximum of four administrators, and any of them may be nominated for the Letters of Administration.